A recycling collector empties the recycling bins into the collection vehicle. The vehicle has two separate compartments to help keep the glass separate from mixed materials.
The glass is emptied into the left compartment. Mixed-materials from the body of the bin are emptied into the right hand compartment. Household batteries are stored separately in the cab.
The recycling collection vehicle travels to a sorting facility in Wallsend and first empties the mixed-material compartment inside the building.
The glass compartment is then emptied outside the building in an area specially set aside for glass (a glass bay). The glass does not need further sorting and is ready to be sent onwards to a glass recycling reprocessor.
The recycling collection vehicle is now empty and can go back to Newcastle to empty more blue bins.
The unsorted mixed materials that the bin wagon emptied inside the sorting facility now needs to be separated out into its different components (i.e. paper, plastic bottles, tin cans, cardboard, cartons and empty aerosols) before it can be sent onwards for recycling.
To start the sorting process, a 'Loading Shovel' places the mixed materials onto a conveyor belt. The conveyor takes the materials up away from the reception hall into the sorting areas.
The conveyor moves the materials around the sorting area. Here, workers manually sort the materials into different categories. The workers are split into small groups with each group responsible for sorting a specific material. For example, one group will be responsible for picking paper off the conveyor and dropping it down a 'paper only' chute.
The chute deposits the paper underneath the platform were it forms into one large pile. This picture shows a pile of sorted paper forming underneath the platform.
Ferrous cans are automatically collected using magnets. Non-ferrous cans are collected using an 'Eddy Current Separator'.
All the materials destined for recycling have now been picked off the conveyor and the remaining 'contaminatation' (i.e. non-recyclable wastes) drop off the end of the conveyor into waste bins. This element will be landfilled if no further value can be retrieved from it. Contamination (reject rate) is typically around 1%.
The recyclables, now forming in separate piles underneath the conveyor, are loaded into a baler. A baler compresses the material under high pressure and forms it into a large block which is fastened with metal twine. Baling make it easier to transport the sorted materials to a recycling factory (reprocessor). The picture shows baled up 'cans'.
Bales are normally allowed to build up on site until there's enough to fill an articulated lorry. It is then transported to the reprocessor and recycled back into new products.