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How is the recycling sorted and reused?

The mixed recycling we collect is bulked at Slyfield before being taken to Biffa's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Edmonton.

Recycling processes

The mixed recycling goes through various processes at the materials recovery facility (MRF) before the items are ready to be used again by manufacturers.

  1. Recyclables are loaded onto conveyors to be sorted.
  2. Non-recyclables and large items are removed.
  3. Glass, plastic, metal, card and papers are separated using trommels (screened cylinders or drums).
  4. The 45mm trammel removes glass. The 170mm trammel removes newspaper, pamphlets, paper, card, plastic and metal.
  5. High quality glass is reprocessed for manufacturing into new products.
  6. Plastic, metal, card and paper are sorted by ballistic (vibration) separators.
  7. Plastics are further sorted by optical scanners to identify different kinds of plastic by colour.
  8. Overhead magnets sort steel and tins, and an eddy current separator generates a strong magnetic field to throw aluminium into a collection area.
  9. Paper and card are sorted into different grades.
  10. All materials are checked and audited before dispatch.
  11. Recyclates are sold for manufacturing into new products.

Where does it go after it has been sorted?

The recyclable material destination changes quite regularly as it follows the market (who pays the most). As part of the Surrey Environment Partnership we publish the destinations of our recycling annually.

    Food waste

    We currently take our food waste to two sites. Around half the waste is taken to the Biogen Greenfinch bio-gas plant in Bedfordshire, where they use anaerobic digestion treatment. The other half of the food waste is taken to Bio Collectors in Mitcham, which uses similar technology.

    Here are some facts about the process and end products created by Biogen Greenfinch:

    1. Household food waste is sent to the plant for treatment from many counties in the plant's catchment area.
    2. The food waste is processed (mechanically chewed up) and digested in large holding tanks for 30 days at 40 degrees.
    3. During digestion, naturally occurring micro organisms produce bio-gas to power large engines that produce electricity. Biogen use around 10% to power the plant, whilst the majority makes a contribution to the national grid.
    4. Environmentally friendly bio-fertilizer from the process is used on farmland local to the plant.