Things I Learned From Visiting a Materials Recovery Facility
Last week we were presented with a unique opportunity at work: to tour a MRF (pronounced “murf”). A MRF is a Materials Recovery Facility.
Why was this unique? Because it’s not often that a Materials Recovery Facility allows people to tour the facility while it’s in operation. Open houses and tours are usually done on weekends.
Why did I get to go? I work in municipal government, and it was felt that educating us about the departments we support would help us to support them and allow us to understand their needs.
The tour was fascinating! It was neat to see how recycling materials are sorted, processed and packaged to be sold to companies to reuse the materials. I learned that:
The Peel Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) is the largest of its kind in Canada and houses:
- a single stream Material Recovery Facility (MRF)
- a waste transfer station
- an organics composting plant
This material recovery facility has the capacity to process 130,000 tonnes of Blue Box material per year!
Here’s how it works:
- Recyclable material is dropped off by the collection trucks on the tipping floor where it is pushed by a front-end loader onto two inclined feed conveyors to a pre-sort area, where:
- bagged material is sent to an automatic bag breaker
- plastic bags are removed and baled
- polystyrene is sorted into a storage bunker
- residual waste is removed and separated into two compactors
- Cardboard and newspaper are then removed and baled for shipment to markets. Remaining material is sent to a state-of-the-art Ã…”V Ã‚Â screen which separates any remaining paper from the container stream, and much of the plant’s mixed broken glass is captured below the newsprint screens and conveyed directly to a mixed broken glass bunker.
- Containers are conveyed from the Ã…”V Ã‚Âscreen to a combined trommel/magnetic separator. Heavier materials are directed to a glass sorting conveyor. Lighter materials are sent to a magnet to capture ferrous material, then to an air classifier, where the light fraction (mostly plastic containers) is removed and sent to the container sort line. The heavy fraction is directed to the glass sorting line where clear and coloured glass is separated. Any remaining glass is conveyed to a mixed glass bunker.
This all occurs in about 4 minutes! Here’s a video that I shot that shows how fast the conveyors move:
- At the container sort station HDPE plastic bottles, PET plastic bottles, plastic tubs and polycoat cartons are sorted. A dual eddy current system captures aluminum at the end of the container sort line. All container materials are stored in dedicated sloped-bottom cages, then baled and shipped to markets.
Recycling is very important!
Products made from raw materials that came from our natural resources should be recycled so that we can help to preserve the environment. For example, we know that paper comes from trees and many trees are being cut down just to produce paper. By recycling it, we can help lessen the number of trees that are cut down. Here’s a more comprehensive list of the benefits of recycling.
How we can help:
I learned that as residents we can help the MRF’s in our regions operate more efficiently and process the materials faster by doing a few simple things:
- Wash out the remaining food (organics) from the material. Organics remaining in the material can contaminate the material preventing it from being either properly sorted, or purchased to be reused.
- Take the lid off of water bottles and empty them! Because of the weight of the water in the water bottle the sorter cannot tell that a water bottle with water in it is a PET bottle and could end up in the waste instead.
- Only put things in your blue box that your area can recycle/resell. The key part of recycling is having a market that is willing to buy the material and use it to make other products out of it. Not all areas have the same markets, so be aware of what material your area/region can recycle. Most governments have a website with this information available to their residents, ie: this nifty website created by the Region of Peel: wheredoesitgo.ca
- Only put things in your blue box that is large enough to be processed. Small things like water bottle lids are too small to be processed.
- Use your green bins for your organic materials. This can be turned into compost which your government sells. Landfills STINK because they’re full of organic materials that should have been composted.
All in all I had a fantastic time and learned a lot. I’ve made a number of changes at home, including using my green bins more, and rinsing out/emptying my recyclable materials.
– Do you recycle?
– Have you ever toured a MRF (“murf”)?
– What recycling tips can you share with my readers?
Disclaimer: I was not compensated, nor asked to write this post – I simply felt that everything I learned and experienced was too valuable not to share.