Amanda Taylor

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Beyond the Blue Bin

by Amanda Taylor on 14 November, 2009

MRF, PeterboroughStarting 16th November, Viridor will be handling the recycling materials    from Cambridge blue bins.

Cambridge blue bins are the place to throw all your dry recyclables —   cardboard, paper, aluminium and steel cans, Tetrapaks, glass,   aerosols and plastic bottles.

On Tuesday 10th November, five city councillors, three City Rangers, two customer services staff and Vicky Kelso, from the Council’s recycling team, visited the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) – pronounced ‘Murf’ by those close to it – at Fengate, Peterborough, which is operated by Viridor, one of the UK’s leading recycling companies, and owned by Peterborough City Council.

We were briefed about the facility’s operations in the Viridor Education Room, suitably bright and green with information boards, new items such as pencils and mugs made out of recyclables and material samples, before donning blue hats, yellow tabards and microphone for a tour of the works.

We were given the fire instructions and warned not to wander from the official tour route. The thought of ending up in a pencil or a coffee mug was enough to concentrate my mind!

First, we went to the Pre-sort Cabin and saw conveyor belts with a broad mix of material, including some that should not have gone in the recycling bins in the first place.

Several people were grabbing large pieces of cardboard and non-recyclable waste from the line rather in the manner of snatching suitcases from a luggage belt at the airport (should you be ungreen enough to fly in these carbon-aware times).

One of the big problems is people putting their recycling into plastic bags before they go into bins and there was also all sorts of other stuff to extract.

There were plenty of nappies which cannot be recycled and should go into general waste – or even better they could be avoided by using washable cloth nappies.

Next came the Trommel, a large spinning drum which sorts the rubbish by size.

I had been wondering how the bottles and cans would part company with the paper. In the Ballistics section, flat paper rises to the surface, while cylindrical objects such as bottles and cans roll to the bottom.

Next, steel cans come out and aluminium is separated from steel by the clever use of magnetic attraction and repulsion. By this stage my school physics lessons were coming back to me…

Plastic materials were detected by an optical sorter and blown into a bunker and finally, the various materials were fed into a baler for crushing and wiring.

To see the processes for yourself, see Viridor’s MURF video on their own website.

The new system has been introduced to increase Cambridge recycling rates, and we are hoping to reach our target of recycling 45% of household waste by April 2010.

It is important we all keep our recyclables clean and only put the right items into our new blue bin to ensure everyone’s recycling efforts result in quality raw materials for new products.

For more information about what to put in the bins, see the Cambridge City Council website, which has detailed instructions on what you can put in your blue bin and on the collection schedule.

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