Following the Recycling Story…

In Oxfordshire, residents throw out over 300,000 tonnes of rubbish every year, a massive 470kg for every person!

In South Oxfordshire we currently recycle only 23% of our rubbish, the rest is buried in large landfill sites, which have devastating effects on our environment. As the rubbish rots in the landfill, it produces harmful gases (which contribute to global warming) and toxic liquids called leachates, which can have disastrous affects on habitats and wildlife if it reaches waterways.

But also by burying our rubbish we are wasting our limited natural resources, if we recycle as much as we can, it will mean fewer resources are used and less waste will be buried as landfill.

In South Oxfordshire, the Council provide a kerbside recycling scheme for the collection of paper, plastics, cardboard, tins and cans. Recyclables in the green boxes are collected weekly (by a separate vehicle to the refuse), to be sorted and recycled.

So what happens to the recyclable materials after they are collected from the kerbside…?

Once a recycling vehicle is full of materials from the green boxes, the load is dropped at a bulking depot in Ewelme. All the materials for recycling are packed into a larger vehicle before being taken away to be sorted.

The materials are bulked up because it saves energy and pollution. The bulking process means fewer vehicles and fewer journeys to the next stage of the process, at the materials recovery facility, which is where the materials are separated and sorted.

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) can separate paper, cardboard, plastic, tins and cans by using a series of conveyors, a trommel (similar to a large rotating drum), magnets and eddy current. The MRF can sort around 50,000 tonnes of rubbish every year!

The materials are first unloaded and fed onto conveyor belts which travel up to the trommel, which is over 15 metres long! The trommel has different size holes for the various materials to fall through. The cans and tins which fall through the holes and are taken by conveyor belt past a large magnet. The magnet and eddy current separate the steel cans from the aluminium cans.

Card, paper and plastics fall through different holes in the trommel and are carried by another conveyor belt to a picking station. At the picking station a team of hand sorters, pick out the plastics which are then separated into their different type. They also pick out the paper and card.

Once the materials have been separated and sorted they are packed and compressed into bales. The baled materials are then sold on to reprocessors to make new products.

The paper is taken to a paper mill, which turns old paper into new paper and cardboard is recycled to make the filling of corrugated cardboard. Plastic collected from recycling boxes is used to make pipes for gas and water mains and steel cans are made into steel wire and aluminium cans are recycled back into cans again.

Recycling a material like aluminium to make new cans uses 95% less energy than when starting from scratch, it also produces less pollution.

Lots of products can be made from recycled materials, plastic bottles can be recycled to make fleece jackets or new plastic packaging. Paper can be recycled to make toilet roll or writing paper.

It is important to keep the recycling cycle going. Buy recycled products from the supermarket or shops and recycle them once you have finished with them. The products will then be made into new items and the cycle continues. Look out for recycled goods or packaging next time you go shopping and make a difference!

Remember if you haven’t got your free green box yet or would like another one, please contact Public Amenities on 01491 823416 or email  [email protected]

Green boxes are also available from [email protected] or 01491 641856