Wealden District Council

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What happens to the Materials Collected?

Recyclable materials collected through the kerbside service and the Neighbourhood Recycling Points (NRPs) are tipped and bulked up at Wealden's recycling depot in Uckfield for onward transport to Viridor in Crayford (Kent). 

We currently send out a minimum of three lorry loads per day to Viridor in Kent of commingled (mixed) recyclable material containing paper, steel and aluminium cans and foil, plastics, cardboard, aerosols and glass jars and bottles. Each lorry usually contains about 15 tonnes of recyclable material.

Where Does Recycling Go?

At Viridor's Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) in Crayford (Kent) the materials are sorted, baled and delivered to mainly UK reprocessors. The plant uses a selection of automated sorting equipment including a series of conveyors, magnets, screens and infra red sensors to separate the different types of materials, with some hand sorting for paper, cardboard, plastics and removal of contaminants.

Glass Processing

The mixed glass collected from the kerbside and the NRP (Neighbourhood Recycling Point) sites is first sorted by colour and screened to remove any contaminants. The glass is then crushed, melted and moulded into new products such as bottles and jars. Wealden mixed glass is currently sorted and recycled in the UK and Europe. 

Did you know?

Every household in the UK uses on average 331 bottles and jars each year. If the average household recycled all their glass they would save enough energy to:

  • Power a 60 watt bulb for 20 days
  • Power a computer for 5 days
  • Power a colour TV for nearly 4.5 days

Did you know?

Your jars and bottles are 100% recyclable and can be recycled an infinite amount of times. Power a washing machine for 2.5 days

There are five main stages for the process of recycling your plastics and these are;

Stage One - Sorting

This is initially carried out when the plastic is delivered mixed up with all the other recyclable material to the MRF (Materials Recycling Facility) at Ideal. The first stage is to sort the plastic into the specific types. Plastic recycling is more complex than that of metal or glass recycling due to the many different types of plastic and more importantly, mixed plastic cannot be used in manufacturing without delivering poor quality products, hence why plastic recycling companies need to be thorough when it comes to sorting the waste plastic in to the different forms prior to the next stage in the recycling process.

Stage Two - Washing

Once the waste plastic has been identified and separated in to one of its many forms the cleaning process can begin, this usually starts with washing to remove paper labels, adhesives and other impurities, all the labels on your plastic containers and bottles need to be completely removed as these will lower the quality of the finished recycled plastic.

Stage Three- Shredding

The shredding stage is when the waste plastic is taken and loaded on to conveyor belts or directly in to huge hoppers that funnel the clean scrap towards rotating metal teeth that rip the plastic in to small pellets which are bagged up afterwards ready for testing.

Stage Four - Identify and Classify

Once the shredded plastic has been bagged it is then chemically tested and labelled as to its exact specification, this rGrade plastic can be used "as-is" by adding to a mix of virgin plastic in a manufacturing run, alternatively the rGrade plastic can be further recycled.

Stage Five - Extruding

This is the final stage in recycling plastic, this involves melting the clean shredded plastic and extruding in to the form of pellets which then go on to manufacture the next lot of plastic products.

Steel cans are baled and transported on to UK steel producers where they are melted down and made into new products. All steel products contain about 25% recycled material and cans can become all sorts of new products including scissors, paper clips, mountain bikes or fridges.

Aluminium cans and aluminium foil are sorted and baled and the crushed cans and bales of aluminium foil are sent to UK reprocessors. The cans and foil are melted down and the molten aluminium is poured into giant ingot moulds. The ingots are then rolled into sheets and sold on to companies to make new products, such as a new car, plane parts, or even the can containing your next drink!

The Salvation Army Trading Company (external link) collect the textiles and books directly from the Neighbourhood Recycling Points. They are taken from these to a central sorting facility to be graded. The clothes and books are then sorted for reuse/resale or recycling. Wearable clothes and shoes and reusable books are resold in the UK and abroad, helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

Unwearable textiles are then recycled in a variety of ways:

  • Cotton and silk are used to make wiping cloths in such industries as the mining and automotive sectors and can also be used in the manufacturing of paper.
  • The fibres from woollen garments can be reclaimed to make new yarn or fabrics. First of all it has to be graded by type and colour by the mills so that re-dying is not necessary, therefore saving energy and reducing pollutants. The fibres are then shredded, blended with other fibres, and "carded" to clean and mix them before being spun ready for weaving or knitting.
  • Trousers, skirts and other remaining unwearable garments are sold to the "flocking" industry. These are then shredded for fillers for items like furniture padding, car insulation, roofing felts and loudspeaker cones for example.

There are also a few other charities which have collection facilities for books, shoes and CDs within our recycling points.

Once the paper arrives at the reprocessor it is taken from the storage bays as required and loaded onto a continuously running conveyor belt which feeds material into the Fibre Preparation Plant. Here, the recovered paper is mixed with additional magazines to a specific formula to create the ideal blend for recycled newsprint.

The material then enters two horizontal drums, these are long rotating, sloping tubes into which water and sodium silicate are added. The contents are gently tumbled along the length of the drum, just like a super sized washing machine. The fibres swell and start to separate and the ink particles become loose.

Screening separates the fibres and water from large contaminates such as cans, plastic bottles and free magazine gifts, which are ejected onto a conveyor belt for disposal. The fibre and water mixture (pulp) is then put through a series of cyclone screens, which remove smaller items such as plastics and staples.

Compressed air is used to form soap bubbles to remove the ink from the mixture. The ink sticks to the bubbles as they float to the surface so forming a scum that can be removed mechanically. The pulp then goes through further cleaning stages before hydrogen peroxide is added to brighten the fibres. The resulting pulp has a consistency of 12% fibre in water and it is now held in storage towers ready to enter the paper making process.

When needed the fibres are distributed evenly across the paper machine's 10 metre width by injecting the pulp upwards into the forming section. Here, the fibres are trapped between two continuous woven nylon supports to form a sheet of paper.

A Vacuum helps squeeze water from the sheet of paper, and moves onto the press section. Here, it is supported on one side only by a synthetic felt with a high water holding capacity. The sheet is rotary pressed to reduce the water content, leaving a consistency of 50% fibre to water.

Now recognisable as a sheet of paper, it proceeds through a drying process, which incorporates rollers filed with steam and simultaneously pumped hot air. The final result is paper with a moisture content of just 9% - the standard amount for newspapers.

Once given a surface treatment, the paper is checked and monitored for quality. It is then stored until required.

As the paper leaves the mill, the recycling process is complete. Yesterday's newspapers will soon reappear on newsstands across the UK and Europe. The only thing to change will be the stories.

Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Recycling

WEEE items are deposited at the various WEEE banks in the district,  which are located at the Household Waste Recycling Sites (external link) and some of the Neighbourhood Recycling Points.  Here they are emptied every month by Veolia, and the material is taken to MDF Light brothers in Newhaven, where the items are shredded and the various different types of material are separated as far as possible.  They are then bulked up, and sold on to reprocessors to be made back into further metal products, such as paper clips, banana peelers, etc.

This is taken directly to Woodlands Composting Facility in Whitesmith. The garden waste is shredded and piled into large rows called 'windrows'. Natural micro-organisms break it down into compost which is screened, sieved and used as soil conditioner in the agricultural industry.

The soil conditioner is also available for residents to buy at all the household waste recycling sites in East Sussex.

Watch a short video to find out what happens to the garden waste we collect.

Rubbish from your waste bin is taken to one of the waste transfer stations in East Sussex, for instance the new site at Maresfield which is run by East Sussex County Council's contractors, Veolia Environmental Services. The waste is sorted, compacted and then sent onto landfill sites or energy from waste plants.

A majority of the general, non-recyclable waste generated from East Sussex households, which has recently been sent out of the county for disposal, will now be sent to the new Energy from waste facility - Newhaven  (external link).

Did you know?

That there is a preferred priority for disposal of your waste, according to the goal of becoming a more sustainable society, this is called the waste hierarchy.  This shows the most desirable method for waste management at the top of the inverted pyramid, and the least desirable at the bottom. 

This shows that landfilling our waste is the least desirable option, and that incineration or Energy from waste is further up the waste hierarchy.