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DoES Epic Trip #4 – Waste Not

8th February 2014

DoES Epic Trips are occasional trips to interesting places arranged by members of the DoES Liverpool community. So far we’ve visited the Stafford Beers Archive at LJMU, the Liverpool Traffic Control Centre, and Toxteth Fire Fit Hub Fire Station & Community Centre. The fourth trip (back in June) was to the Merseyside Waste Recycling Centre. I posted a report on the mailing list and am finally posting it to the blog!

The trip to the Waste Recycling Centre will be repeated soon, so if you’re interested take a look at this post on the mailing list.


Just back from the epic trip and thought I’d send a report before I forgot everything. The trip was to the Merseyside Waste Recycling Centre and showed us all about how the recycling for Liverpool, Halton & Knowsley is handled.

Essentially we were shown a large warehouse building with lots of equipment and conveyors in. The recycling comes in mixed together as Liverpool and the other areas have a single bin into which plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, glass & metal cans all go. Out the other end of the system comes bales of cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, aluminium, steel and piles of broken glass. A mixed collection tends to result in more recycling, assumedly because it’s easier for us lazy people. As well as I remember the process works as follows:

  • Mixed recycling goes up big conveyor.
  • Humans watch conveyors and pick out big obvious things that shouldn’t be in there as it passes through, plastic bags etc.
  • The mix is then jiggled over essentially a large sieve. The holes are quite big so most things fall through but the cardboard is generally quite large and stays up, is then taken and baled.
  • Humans then check again for any problem items.
  • Paper is then separated out by only allowing flat things through, can’t quite remember how that was done, this may have been air blowing through the material blowing the paper up or a simple filter that only allowed a certain thickness through.
  • A secondary check is then done for paper that looks for bottles & cans that have been flattened or plastic bags, etc. that have got this far. They shine infra red light onto the materials and check for the absorbency of the material and then use air jets to push the non-paper items away.
  • Next is a set of magnets that go around on a conveyor above the recycling that picks out the steel and drops it, which is then also baled.
  • Aluminium is filtered by having a magnetic field induced which repels the aluminium, apparently, wasn’t too clear on that one. Again, that’s then baled.
  • We’re now left with plastic and glass. This is all dropped onto metal spikes. The glass shatters, the plastic doesn’t, I guess they then use a size filter to take away the broken glass.
  • They have suction devices that can take labels and other contaminants off the plastic bottles so this is another stage they go through.

(I’m pretty certain I’ve got the order of some bits wrong but you get the gist.)

It’s all very organised and as you can see many of the processes they use are actually quite obvious, once you know them. A big aim of theirs is to reduce the number of “contaminants” that make it through the process. Obviously the best way is to stop them entering the system but they also have lots of ways to reduce them along the way. Most of the time contaminants can be dealt with at a later stage (e.g. glass bottles should have labels removed, but they can deal with it if they’re left on). It was quite interesting as they tried to juggle the message of “please prepare your recycling” and “we recycle as much as possible of whatever you send to us”.

Main takeaways for what they want people to do:

  • Follow the instructions given by the council, don’t infer things.
  • Don’t bag up your recycling, the plastic bags can get stuck in the system and can’t be recycled as part of this process.
  • Plastic cartons & boxes are not bottles. If you’re told that they can recycle bottles, that means they can only recycle bottles (this actually goes for DoES too!)
  • Don’t crush bottles and cans, because this reduces the thickness they may actually end up being considered paper until late in the sorting route.
  • Recycle as much as possible!

Quite a long [post], always worth writing things up when fresh in your mind 🙂 They do these tours regularly because they’re trying to get the message out about how to recycle and why. If it turned out that more people wanted to go then we could probably arrange another tour. I imagine the above will suffice and that you will all now recycle lots.

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