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Where Does My Recycling Go?

We all know the importance of recycling, but have you ever wondered how the process actually works? Where does your recycling go after leaving it leaves your house and what sort of products does it end up in? Well wonder no more, because we’re here to tell you.

Most cities in Australia – including Brisbane – use a “single-stream” recycling system where all the recycling is placed in a single bin, rather than multiple separate bins. The truck then takes the recycling to a Materials Recovery Facility, where it’s sorted and sent off to different facilities for processing.

Paper

Papers are separated out first in recycling, and taken to a paper mill where the ink is removed in a chemical bath. After de-inking, the paper is mixed with water and pulped, before being moved into a giant centrifuge that spins at high speeds and removes any remaining dust or glue particles. After washing, the pulp is pressed and wound into huge rolls of paper.

Unlike other recyclable materials, paper degrades each time it is recycled, but any paper that’s no longer suitable for recycling into new paper can be used in housing insulation or toilet paper.

Metal

After being sorted, metals are taken to a mill where they are heated to up to 1500 degrees Celsius. The molten m is then poured into moulds and cast into ingots, which are then shipped to manufacturers who use them to make everything from aluminium cans to iron bridges.

Plastic

You will normally find a number at the bottom of recyclable plastic items. Each type of recyclable plastic is given a designated number, and it arrives at a Materials Recovery Facility it needs to be sorted by hand. The most common type of plastic is #1, which is used in water and soft drink bottles.

Once sorted, the plastics are ground up into small flakes and fed into a furnace to be melted down into polymers. These polymers can then be manufactured into things like lawn furniture, waste bins and even carpets.

Glass

Recycled glass arrives at the Materials Recovery Facility in all shapes and sizes, so the first step is to crush it all down into tiny pieces called culets. These can either be sent directly to manufacturers or heated into molten glass to be used in new products, including beads doorknobs and tiles.

If you’d like to learn more about how recycling can save you organisation money, click here.