For most of us, the thought of what happens to our recycled waste after it’s picked up and before it resurfaces as a plastic bottle never crosses our mind. But in fact, after our waste is collected it undergoes a number of interesting and complicated process as it is recycled. These processes will vary according to the type of waste, as will the recycling equipment used to process it. There is a wide range of recycling equipment available, and as recycling becomes possible for more types of waste, we will need to develop more types of equipment to process it.
Most of the time recycling equipment is necessary for the sorting, washing, testing, and processing of waste. For example, pulping, pressing and drying for paper and cardboard or shredding and extruding for plastics. Frequently, recycling plants will include a few standard items of equipment, including shredders, grinders and pulverisers, sorting conveyor belts, bag openers, bailing presses, industrial loaders and mixers, and overhead cranes. You’ll notice that a few of the items in that list aren’t types of specific recycling equipment, but more generally used for loading and moving. Due to the nature of recycling large amounts of waste, these logistical types of equipment are integral to the recycling process – not only do they move the waste around the site, they also deliver and despatch loads from the centres. There are also other types of equipment used for specific types of waste. For example, a waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling centre would need current separators and optical sorters, as well as equipment to deal with toxic fumes, chemicals and dangerous components found in electronics.
As we can see, recycling equipment is a complicated, specialised and necessary component of the recycling process. Think about what’s happening to your waste the next time you put out your recycling!