Recycling in Southend

What happens to our recycling?

The Pink Recycling Sack Journey

Pink recycling sacks are delivered to the local waste transfer station by the collection vehicles where they are bulked together and loaded for onward transport to the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to sort the recyclables into their different material streams (plastic bottles, household plastic packaging, food and drink cans and glass bottles/jars).

Once delivered to the MRF the pink sacks are mechanically split and the materials travel along a system of conveyor belts. Pre-sorting takes place at this stage to remove any contamination (such as food contaminated items, polystyrene, etc.). Sorting equipment including screens, magnets, eddy currents and optical sorters work mechanically to separate materials into their different streams. Final visual checks take place to remove any items which may have got through but cannot be recycled.

Once sorted the different materials are transported to various re-processors where they are used to make new products. 

The Paper and Card Journey

Once the paper and card has been emptied from the blue box (it is collected at the same time as the pink sacks, but placed in the other half of the vehicle to keep them separated), it is taken to the Waste Transfer Station where it is bulked.

It then makes its way to the reprocessing plant in Kent, where it is recycled to make new paper and card, and packaging products, such as cereal boxes.

Three top tips:

  • Remove any plastic wrapping and free gifts from newspapers, magazines and junk mail
  • Paper is one of the most valuable recyclable materials, but only when it’s clean
  • If you scrunch paper and it doesn't spring back, then it can be recycled

The Clear Textile Recycling Sack Journey

The clear textile sacks are also taken to the waste transfer station where they are sorted to remove any problematic items such as very soiled or wet textiles (or anything which is not a 'textile' - where the sacks may have been used incorrectly). These are removed because they would not be accepted by the reprocessor.

The material is then taken to the reprocessor where further manual sorting is done. During this process, materials are sorted according to whether they can be reused, recycled or are classed as a 'contaminant' which may have passed through the initial sort.

The vast majority of textiles are reused, so are not shredded but sold on as wearable items.

A smaller percentage are shredded to be used as 'flocking' (stuffing for cushions, etc.) and these items are only shredded because they cannot be used for anything else.

The Food Waste Journey

Once the food waste is collected from the blue food waste bins it is bulked for transportation on to its reprocessor.

In vessel composting (IVC) and anaerobic digestion (AD) are two technologies available for reprocessing food waste into a valuable end-product. Due to the controlled nature of these processes all types of food waste can be safely reprocessed - from fruit and vegetables to bakery, dairy and meat products - to develop a product that can be used as an agricultural bio fertiliser and soil improver. AD also produces biogas which can be used to produce renewable energy.

In Vessel Composting

IVC involves composting the food waste in a controlled environment using tunnels. The food waste is delivered to an enclosed reception area, shredded and loaded into the first vessel / tunnel. Micro-organisms in the waste start breaking down the material, increasing the temperature to between 60°C and 70°C, ensuring that pathogens are killed. After 7 to 21 days the material is moved to the second vessel where the composting process continues. The use of a two-stage process ensures that all the material reaches the required temperatures. The control of oxygen, moisture, and temperature, levels during all stages ensures the material is fully sterile. Once this has been completed the compost is left to mature in 'heaps' called windrows - either in the open air or an enclosed area. It is then 'screened' into different grades depending on what it will be used for.

Anaerobic Digestion

AD involves the break down, by micro-organisms, of biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen. The food waste is mixed with other biodegradable materials to ensure that the optimal mix is achieved. The material is screened for contaminants and then fed into a digester to produce digestate and biogas. The digestate can be stored and separated into solid (for further processing and application to land) or liquid (which can be used on land as a bio fertiliser) fractions. The biogas - a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide - is stored either to be refined further or used directly for a number of applications.

The Garden Waste Journey

Garden waste collected at the kerbside and at the HWRCs is taken to an open windrow composting facility in Pitsea. Here it is processed and turned into high quality compost.

Windrow composting processes garden waste in the presence of oxygen- either in the open air or in large covered areas, where the material can break down. When the garden waste arrives at the facility any contamination is removed (it is surprising what can find its way into garden waste!) and it is shredded to reduce the volume and accelerate the composting process. The shredded garden waste is then piled into rows (windrows).These windrows are turned regularly to aerate them and evenly distribute the heat and moisture, which is naturally generated as part of the composting process.

After approximately 12 weeks once the compost has matured it is passed through a screen to separate smaller material from ‘oversized’ material. The small fraction goes through another 4 week maturation process and the oversized fraction is put back through the process to break it down further.

At the end of the process is an organic soil conditioner which meets all required standards to be sold as a branded Veolia product called Pro Grow.’

If you are registered for the garden waste collection, you can help by ensuring that non-compostable items such as plant pots and plastic bags are not put in with your garden waste.

Page last updated: 14/03/2018