Where your recycling goes

So you’ve sorted your recycling correctly and put the bin out for collection on the kerbside.

What happens next?

Collecting

 After your recycling bin gets collected by a recycling truck, it then heads to a sorting facility called a Materials Recovery Facility, or ‘MRF’ for short.

Sorting

Your recyclables are then put on a conveyer belt to get sorted into different recycling categories such as paper, cardboard, plastic, steel, aluminium and glass.

It’s a big job and takes a combination of people power, those who manually sort items on a moving conveyer belts, and high-tech sorting machines.

Manual pre-sorting

 Before your recycling hits the automated sorting machines, pre-sorters pick out items that aren’t recyclable. But they can’t pick out everything that doesn’t belong on the fast-moving conveyer belt. These items are called contaminants and include things such as soft plastics, recycling in plastic bags and clothing. Contaminants get caught up in the sorting machines and can be dangerous to employees.

Contaminants cause problems to those who buy our recycled paper, plastic and metal to make new products. A few plastic bags mixed into a pile of paper can mean the recycled paper can’t be used to produce new high-quality paper.

Getting to know your recycling will help you to keep the contaminants out of your recycling bin. See the top 5 things to keep out of your recycling bin.

Automated machine sorting

At the MRF, different machines sort different types of recyclable materials. Powerful magnets pick up steel cans and optical scanners separate paper and plastic.

 At the end of the process, paper, cardboard, plastic, steel and aluminium all get sorted into separate groups and made into large bundles known as bales.

Glass is the only material that does not get baled. It goes into silos to be transported to a glass colour-sorting facility. Once glass is coloured, it stays that colour. So the glass in a green drink bottle will be green forever. Glass is sorted into the same colour so it can be recycled correctly.

Processing

Separated materials are then transported to a paper mill, plastic processor such as Advanced Circular Polymers, or manufacturers to be made into new recycled products.

Creating new products from your recycling

It might be a road you drive on every day, or that park bench you sat on while drinking coffee last weekend.

All over Victoria, your recycling is being made into new products to minimise waste ending up in landfill and to make the most of existing resources.

This reduces the environmental impact of using new or raw materials to create new products.

Learn more about what happens at a MRF by watching Beyond the Bin.