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Waste sorting process

From Bin to Biffa – Where does the waste go?

Posted in Recycling
On 31 Oct 2017
By Jas Bagri

Ever wanted to know what happens to your waste once it’s collected?
Well, hold on to your hats we’re about to take you on that journey.

Dispatched from our collection depots, our Biffa trucks pick up four main waste streams from our customers, each of them heading for a different final destination.

Where does the waste go?

First stop – Dry Mixed Recycling

The contents of both your Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) and general waste bins are taken to one of our 30 waste transfer stations up and down the country.

Some, such as Aldridge, will take direct delivery of newspapers and cardboard, along with plastics, metal cans and glass bottles, and the waste sorting is automated. At other stations the work to separate the recyclable waste is done by hand.

From a typical waste sort line like the one at Tipton, staff will manually pick out and separate the cardboard, clear polythene, mixed polythenes such as bread wrappers, mixed papers, scrap steel and aluminium cans, and the plastic bottles and gallon containers.

Any residues are sent on to a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant where they’re shredded and baled for incineration.

At present, general waste is processed and sent for incineration in the UK, Germany or Holland. The heat generated by burning the waste is used to turn water into steam to power turbines, which generate electricity. Also the hot water is pumped around the local areas to heat factories and homes.

Second Stop – Raw Materials

Where does recycling go?

The majority of raw materials are traded as commodities to be remanufactured into new products in China, mainland Europe, or here in the UK. We currently return 800,000 tonnes of recycled commodities back into use every year.

“All of that paper, cardboard, polythene, metal and glass passes through our transfer stations,” said Recycling Commodities Trading Manager Trevor Williams. “China is the biggest buyer of these raw materials as the UK currently doesn’t have the capacity to reprocess everything it recycles.”

Third stop- Mixed Glass

Glass is too good a resource to end up in landfill and that’s why at our state of the art facilities at Aldridge and Edmonton, we can sort and clean it of impurities then send it on to be melted down and remade into new glass bottles and jars. Glass that can’t be re-melted is recycled as aggregate. 150,000 tonnes of glass a year are rescued from landfill by Biffa to be reused.

Final Stop -Inedible food waste

Inedible food waste is taken direct to one of our three anaerobic digestion facilities around the UK, where we can break down food waste into Biomethane, which is used to generate green energy for the National Grid!

About the author

image of jas bagri

Jas Bagri

Jas is part of Biffa’s digital team, writing a diverse range of content on a number on industry topics. Jas’s favourite subject to write about is recycling, so look out for her handy tips coming your way!