Tour of London’s Recycling Centre

Hello, my name’s Chris.
And I’m Emily, welcome to the recycling centre! The technical name for this place is the
Regional Material Recovery Facility. Or MRF for short.
Blue box recyclables come here from your community and many other municipalities in the
area. This is a two stream system, that means that your recyclables need to arrive here already sorted into two groups. Paper
products for one sorting stream, and containers for the second.
Throughout this tour you’ll see why that makes this one of the
most high tech and efficient facilities of it’s kind, in all of North America. Come on! Let’s go check it out! Just to keep our heads safe, need to wear a
helmet. We also have eye protective gear and ear protective gear as it will be quite noisy in there. From this monitoring station we can see that the recycling process
here starts with trucks entering at the scale house.
“Okay, come on in”
This is where we track all the materials entering and leaving.
By weight, type of materials, where it’s from from and where it’s going. Notice the recycling track is divided
into two compartments to keep the paper in containers
separated when they’re collected. When the trucks arrive here they unload
your recyclables onto the tipping floor, which is also divided to keep the paper
and container streams separate. The facility also has two processing
lines that run through the whole facility.
In order to keep the streams separate, the two lines never meet. So that means if you mix paper and
containers together in your blue box, well that’s a problem for us here
because of the extra work and costs it creates. So here we have a pile of paper. But lets take a closer look. You can see here that there’s more than just paper in this pile for instance, here’s a water bottle. The system
is designed to mechanically separate paper into different grades, such as
cardboard and newsprint. It’s not designed to
separate things like plastic bottles from the paper stream so this will have to be
removed by hand. In this case the water bottle is
recyclable but it’s just being placed in the wrong
place. The more you look the more you see things that don’t belong there’s another water bottle, there’s a
juice carton and there’s a detergent bottle, and here’s an aluminum can. All sorting errors. And here we have a pile that’s sorted perfectly.
When you sort it right it really does make a big difference. So now we’re coming into the container tipping floor. Here we have a mix of plastic, glass,
metals and cartons. Here we’ve got some sorting errors. And here, we have things that just don’t belong in
a Blue Box. Having to sort through all these items
that don’t belong and putting them into their correct streams costs a lot extra for us to manage.
So here we are in the next phase the pre-sort room next to the container line. We’ll be following the container line throughout the tour and later on we’ll follow the paper line. This is where all of the initial sorting begins. So this is where we figure out the things that just don’t belong that.
When you put the wrong things in your Blue Box like a frying pan, for instance, it will
get pulled off here, or if you put recyclables in the wrong
stream the staff here will put them in the
right stream. The other big job is to rip open the plastic bags and pull the
recyclables only the bags before they continue
through the process. From here the items in the container line go through
a series of machines that will separate the different material
type. The first material to get sorted is this steel containers. That’s done by the big rotating belt
magnet. Here’s how that works: The belt is magnetized and as all of the
containers travel under a powerful magnet the steel containers
get pulled up and stick to the rotating belt as it
goes around. Everything else carries on past the magnet. Now, when the steel containers reach
this point, the belt is demagnetized and the steel cans drop down this shoot
onto a conveyor that transfers them over to the steel
storage bunker. Once the bunker is full, the steel will be
fed into a bailer then shipped in transport trucks to a steel
manufacture. Next is the air classifier its sorts materials by weight. The heavy
stuff, like glass, drops down, and the lightweight
stuff like plastics aluminum cans, foil and milk cartons, and
juice boxes are blown up by an airstream. The
lightweight materials travel through the perforator and are punctured and flattened. This
makes storage more efficient and it also makes sorting easier, because
of the flattened materials, won’t roll around on the conveyors. Here, the lightweight materials head to the optical sorter. This is the optical sorter. We program it to identify different types of plastics based on the chemical composition. It’s called the optical sorter, because
the infrared light sees and identified each item as it travels
under the light. They really have some awesome technology here. The eye sends an electronic signal to turn
on an air jet which will blow the item in
a desired direction. If it sees a number one plastic, a pop
bottle for example, it will turn an air jet that blows at up.
If it sees items made of number three or number
seven plastics like a shampoo bottle or a yogurt tub,
it’ll turn on a different air jet that will blow the item down. The third
direction, or the default, is for everything else.
No air jet turned on and items move forward and down, by force
of momentum and gravity into the middle direction to
be sorted later down the line. Notice how fast the conveyor belt is
moving! That’s crazy that they can do all this
going so fast. So here we are in the container sort
room, where we sort things like number two plastics. Like detergent bottles, any polycoat containers, such as juice boxes and milk cartons. The reason these are called polycoat containers is because they consist of several
different layers of materials such as paper and plastic, and in the case of
some juice boxes, a layer of aluminum on the inside.
These items are all sorted by hand, as well the staff sorts out any item that
may have been missed by another machine. If you look over there, there’s a
container steel cans. The last thing to be sorted from the
container line are aluminum cans, and this is done by the aluminum
separator, which we also call the eddy current.
The eddy current induces an
electric current in the aluminum cans and as they pass
through a magnetic field they are repelled in one direction while
the remaining non aluminum items move in a different
Who would have known all these high-tech machines were in a recycling
plant. That if for the container line, now
we’ll move on to the paper line, which has fewer steps, making it easier
to follow.
Here we are, back in the pre-sort room. Where staff are starting to sort through the paper line. The
first thing that they do is they remove all non-paper recyclables, and
transfer them into the container line Here, plastic bags are ripped open and
emptied onto the paper line. And then non-recyclables are put onto
the residual line. which will go to the landfill. We’ll
come back that later. The paper is then separated through a screening process. We have two large paper screens at this
facility. The first one separates cardboard, and
the second one separates box board and newsprint.
As the paper moves over the screens, the large pieces of paper float along the
top, and the smaller lighter weight pieces drop down through the
screens. See how the cardboard floats along the top of the screens? After being screened the paper goes into
the paper sort room where the final sorting is done manually. Here is where the cardboard receives a final hand sort, to insure
that it’s a top grade product. Remember, when recycling cardboard make sure to remove all non-cardboard
material. For instance, with a tray like this,
make sure to remove the plastic wrap. This simple step really helps us out. Our goal is to produce a top quality end
product. And to do that, we need to produce bails full of recyclables, free of things that
don’t belong.
The cardboard is fed into the bailer. Paper is either bailed, or compacted into
transport trailers. The bailer compacts and bundles with strong steel wires to be shipped
off to the mills in Ontario, and beyond. In fact, most of the materials stay pretty
close to home in Ontario. Here is where all the bails of different product types are stored, waiting to be shipped.
The materials that we produce here are really top quality. And you at home start the process when
you take the time to sort it right. It really makes a difference, so
thank you.
Here’s a transport trailer filled with newsprint, ready to be shipped off to one at the
paper mills in Ontario.
Our last stop is the residual Iine. This is the last chance to capture any
recyclable that may have been missed throughout the sorting process. We’re proud of how much we recycle here. 99% Of all recyclables that come into the facility are captured. That’s the highest capture rate in all of
Ontario, and quite possibly North America. Less than 3% of materials
they come into this facility are sent to landfill. That includes things that just don’t
belong, like old toasters, or even diapers. Now we’re not just here to show you this new
recycling facility, we’re trying to show you that if you just take a little time to properly recycle, we can all benefit, and can help clean up our environment. See ya next time!

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