How your recycling is sorted

Recycling from your black boxes, recycling points and communal recycling from flats across the city all go to the Material Recovery Facility, also known as the MRF. Below is a step by step guide of how the materials are sorted.

a truck outside the recycling sorting facility

The recycling trucks tip out your mixed recycling in the MRF. This includes cans, tins and aerosols, cardboard and paper and plastic bottles. Glass and batteries need to be kept separate when you recycle as they are dealt with differently. You can find out how you should put out your recycling by going to our black box recycling page.

The recycling truck tipping recycling in the facility

The materials are then transferred onto the conveyor belts where any non recyclable materials are removed.

a vehicle picking up mixed recycling

The mixed recycling then goes through four main processes to separate out the different materials, these include the use of compressed air, magnets and infra red technology.

view of a paper conveyor belt

Before entering the automated processes the materials are hand checked and anything such as plastic bags, textiles and glass are removed, these are then recycled elsewhere where possible.

mixed recycling being checked

The ‘trommel’ is a very large drum which spins and separates out some of the materials such as cans and plastic bottles.

paper being seperated in the air drum

The ‘air knife’ uses jets of compressed air to separate out paper. Paper and brown cardboard are then sorted into separate areas.

paper being seperated with a 'air blade'

A large magnet is used to attract and remove steel cans and electromagnetic technology repels and removes aluminium cans.

view of some of the conveyor belts in the facility

Infra red cameras scan items passing on the conveyor belt. They recognise plastic bottles and determine their type. Precision jets of air then move the different plastic items into separate areas. This process can happen thousands of times a minute.

recycling on a conveyor belt

The various materials are also checked over and any remaining non recyclable materials are removed by hand. The separated materials are then compacted into bales using a giant crusher. They are then ready to be transported on to companies in England and Wales which process the materials into new items. 

a vehicle carrying the baled recycling

Did you know that we recycle over 30 different materials in Brighton & Hove. This is done through our recycling collection schemes, recycling points and recycling centres.

Nearly 95% of the materials are sent to and processed in the UK, with the majority of this happening in Sussex. You can find out more about this and see a map of where all your recycling goes on our what happens to your recycling page.

large bales of plastic bottles stacked up

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