What is the Waste Sorting Process?

The sorting of waste is critical to increasing the amount of waste that is recycled, as well as quality of recycled materials. From individual household input to huge commercial waste loads, everyone has a role to play in effectively sorting waste.

As leading waste management providers in South Wales, with two advanced waste processing sites, SL Recycling know all there is to know about effective waste management. We’ve put together this helpful guide to the waste sorting process to explain why it is important, what is involved, and how we process waste.

What is the Waste Sorting Process?

As the name suggests, the waste sorting process is where waste is sorted into categories, according to material or recyclability.

Waste sorting happens at many levels of society and sizes, from the general public using different bins for different waste types, to businesses separating recyclable materials. Households in the UK sort waste for curb-side collections, separating general waste, food waste, and recyclable materials for collection.

More detailed waste sorting takes place at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where waste is deposited, sorted, then prepared for the next stage of disposal.

Why is Waste Sorted?

As part of the UK Waste Regulations, businesses are required to separate recyclable materials form other waste. Therefore, waste sorting is an obligation for businesses, as well as households, whose recycling is not collected by waste crews if incorrectly sorted.

The push by the government and local authorities for increased waste sorting is due to its benefits. Sorted and separated waste means the quality of recycling increases due to reduced impurities. Similarly, the more waste that gets sorted, the more materials get recycled instead of wending up in a singular waste stream direct to landfill.

For a business assessing their waste management, sorting waste is not only key for compliance, but also integral to creating an effective waste management plan. Proper waste sorting can facilitate reaching environmental aims, including recycling.

What Waste is Sorted?

The type of waste sorted at a particular place depends on a variety of factors; for example, construction waste may be sorted at a general MRF, whereas metal waste may be sorted in a specialised facility.

Generally, waste is sorted according to material, recyclability, or any particular process required. Sorted waste includes paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, wood, scrap metal, compost, hazardous waste, residual waste and more.

Organic waste is often also collected and sorted i.e. food waste. This includes peelings, tea bags, eggshells, and coffee grounds for composting.

Waste Sorting Process

Beginning with the individual separating waste types, and ending with the disposal or recycling of materials, the waste sorting process is critical to effective and efficient recycling. Although varying, here is the waste sorting process that occurs at an MRF using in-house collection vehicles, as we do at SL Recycling:

  • Waste enters MRF – Whether waste is brought to an MRF by the general public or collection vehicles, waste loads are weighed and recorded so as to track waste transfer (Waste Transfer Note provided). For businesses, this stage is key to recording waste management as well as recycling. Waste may also enter MRFs in skips, hired out by the company.
  • Waste emptied – Waste is emptied onto conveyer belts ready to be sorted. There is usually a pre-sort area where non-recyclable materials are removed.
  • Waste sorted – Depending on the materials and amounts, the processes of sorting vary. There are advanced technologies developed for waste sorting, however certain stages may be performed manually too. From trommels and ballistic separators to sort glass and paper, to scanners and magnets for metal sorting, MRFs are well equipped for a variety of waste types.
  • Waste processed – Once sorted into types, waste will be subject to quality checks to monitor impurities. Certain materials may be sorted further, for example separating different grades of paper or cardboard.
  • Waste prepared for shipment – Prior to leaving the MRF or being further processed for recycling, materials will be prepared for shipment. This may involve baling, shredding, crushing, compacting etc. to keep the sorted material together and space efficient while moving.
  • Waste repurposed – Where possible, materials are reused, repurposed and recycled. By implementing the Waste Hierarchy and exploring other disposal methods, waste processors aim to divert waste from landfill.

Find out more about SL Recycling’s environmental promise, with particular focus on reducing the amount of waste diverted to landfill.

Read More about our Environmental Commitment

Get Started with SL Recycling

Find out more about the waste sorting process with SL Recycling. As established waste management providers, we have years of experience as well as advanced infrastructure and capabilities, helping us to maximise the recovery rate of recyclable materials. From providing our own fleet of vehicles and machinery for hire, to using our own in-house facilities, we keep costs at a competitive rate while offering a comprehensive waste service. Get in contact today to start your total waste management plan.

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