Elstow Recycling Centre

Elstow Recycling Centre, near Bedford, was the venue for my visit today. I was there to learn more about recycling in Central Bedfordshire.  Today they were dealing with rubbish put out for recycling from Dunstable.

Last year Central Beds came 6th in the whole country for the amount of waste in kg per person that was sent to landfill (source)*, achieving just over 50% , so they're rightly proud of the record and pleased with residents for doing so well.  But new targets are always being set, so now we must all do even better!

At the weigh station the in-coming lorry is weighed, and then weighed again,
 when it goes out so they can tell how much material they're dealing with.

The lorry unloads all that lovely recycling material the good
residents of Dunstable deposited in their orange bins.
That's card, paper, plastics, metal, cans, old clothes, and so on.
Because it's all so jumbled the quality is not so good as if it had all been
separated a bit more at the kerb-side.
But, at least the choice of a black bin, a green bin,
or an orange bin is simple for residents to remember

A bit of a shove, and the material is moved further into the shed...

... where it waits for another shove ...

.. into the conveyor belt.

The mix travels along the conveyor belt towards hand sorters.
I wasn't allowed to picture the hand-sorting,
but what I can tell you is that they pick off newspaper, card and cans at this step.
These go down chutes into larger receptacles to await bailing.

A bit further along an enclosed strong magnet attracts away any metal,
which then goes down a chute to await bailing.

Here we see the room above where the sorting is done, the chutes
are underneath, and the bulldozers are used to shunt the
sorted cans onto a conveyor belt where it is baled up and sent for re-use.
About 50% of the waste material that comes into Elstow is sorted for recycling; the rest is sent away to Milton Keynes for further processing. When this plant was set up in the Nineteen Nineties there wasn't the same desire to recycle as much as we do now. So, Elstow is old-fashioned compared to the plant at Milton Keynes.

The Central Bedfordshire team now want to encourage people to think more about buying products with less packaging material, so we don't have to recycle so much. All residents are asked to wash and squash more so as to make the final material a bit higher grade (unwashed tins are yuck), and so to create more room in their orange bins at home.

Shredded Paper

And here's a handy tip, don't shred all paper documents, just shred the part of the paper that has the private information on. It's low grade material with little value, but it could be used for pet bedding or packing material. But if you're throwing it out for the recycling bin-man, put the shreds into something like a cornflake box so it's easy to handle at the sorting depot. If you had put it into a plastic bag, it then has to be separated and the shards go everywhere; a real nuisance.

Black bin reduction

With the shortage of land to dump rubbish in, and land-fill taxation, they want people to think more about how they're going to reduce the amount they put in their black bins. Find out more about composting, and the great low-price deals available for a bin. 

Love Food Hate Waste

Perhaps you're buying too much food, and then chucking it out? Find out how to tackle the over-purchasing of food.

Disposable Nappies

A staggering fact about disposable nappies is that every baby produces a tonne of nappies, and each tonne costs the council £72. There is little landfill space left! Experts reckon that it might take 400 years for a used disposable nappy to break down in the ground, but without oxygen, when buried underground, it may never break down. So, obviously they want parents to think more about using disposable nappies. Find out more here.

Recycling in Central Bedfordshire

Find out more about recycling in Central Bedfordshire.

The table was published in 'Resource' magazine in the January - February 2012 edition