Paper Round visits Viridor's Plastic Recycling Facility
Wednesday 14th August 2019
When we collect your mixed recycling, we take it to our materials recovery facility (MRF) in Purfleet, Essex to sort plastics from paper and card from cans. But once we have separated and baled these materials, where does it go next? We visited Viridor’s plastics recycling facility in Lancashire to find out.
How does it all work?
Paper Round sends sorted bales of plastics to Viridor, where they are finally made into flakes and pellets.
It is vital that the plastics are clean and free of all other materials so they can be transformed into quality new products, so the materials go through a series of magnetic fields and optical sorters to remove contaminants, much like we do at our MRF.
At this stage, the material consists of two main types of plastics: PET, which makes things like drinks bottles and takeaway food containers and HDPE, the material of choice for milk bottles.
The materials go through a trommel with teeth that remove film and paper labels and are fed into a chopper to be made into flakes. The flakes are washed to remove dirt and glue. The plant gets through approximately 70, 000 L of water every hour which is filtered and recycled repeatedly.
The washed flakes are floated in a tank of water called a separation tank. PET flakes sink to the bottom and HDPE flakes float which makes them easy to separate.
These clean flakes can be sold on as is, or melted into pellets, depending on the product they are used to make.
What are the main contaminants?
When glass is placed in mixed recycling bins, it shatters and finds its way into open plastic bottles. These tiny shards of glass are incredibly hard to remove!
In particular, aluminium rings from glass bottles and springs and ball bearings from soap dispensers. These small metal parts are the main cause of wear and tear or the chopping equipment over time. Nevertheless, there is lots of valuable plastic in soap dispensers and they can still go into your mixed recycling bin.
What does this mean for businesses?
Visiting the facility in Lancashire gives us a great insight into how to improve the quality of our mixed recycling. Here are our 3 tips for top quality recycling:
1. Glass should not go into the mixed recycling stream since it can greatly lower the quality of plastics being recycled
2. Empty out liquids, flatten bottles and replace the lids to ensure the highest quality for your mixed recycling stream
3. Plastics recycling is energy and water intensive, so, as ever, follow the waste hierarchy and look to reduce your use of plastic materials where possible