The Waste Place
useful waste solutions

The Waste Place
useful waste solutions

What do Skip companies do with your Waste?

What do skip companies do with your waste?

(or do skip companies recycle?)

I once got told skip companies don’t recycle! This was from a fairly normal and educated person. Where this notion came from I have no idea, yet there is a tie in some peoples’ minds between skip companies and landfill.

Landfill certainly cannot be spun as recycling and it is true a lot of waste has in the past, and some still does, go to landfill. Landfill tax has been steadily increasing for some years which certainly incentivises finding other avenues for disposal. Added to this is the increased awareness and positive feeling towards recycling and the environment, leading to many companies using a push in this direction help market themselves to customers.

Technically most skip companies do not physically recycle, however the materials they collect do find homes other than landfill.

So what happens when my waste is collected?

The skip you filled with random waste ends up at a Waste Transfer Station for processing. (See our YouTube video of a quick visit to one).

If the waste is mixed, it will usually get tipped in to a huge pile of waste to be sorted. Then the skip driver carries on with his collections and deliveries. Your waste has a different journey to take!

The huge pile is like the tide, it moves back and moves forward, getting bigger and smaller all the time. Any hold up in sorting can cause serious issues for a Waste Transfer Station!

The mixed pile needs separating into separate waste types (otherwise known as waste streams). Each single waste stream will have a different way of being disposed of or recycled. The company will have different costs for moving on individual waste types, which is reflected in what they charge other people when dropping of single streams (such as just wood or just plaster board).

Large obvious pieces are pulled out manually by ‘pickers’ or plant machinery, to be taken to a separate area for those waste types. This could be large pieces of wood, pallets, kitchen appliances, cardboard.

Once the larger items are removed the remaining mix is usually placed on a conveyor belt. The processing here can be varied and is designed to separate as much as possible. Some will be done manually along a ‘picking line’ where employees visually inspect what goes by and physically take out waste to put in separate bags.

There will also be mechanical sorting from a trommel (a rotating mesh type screen which allows different size debris to fall through), blowers (which literally blow light waste into a separate area), magnets to pull out metal and other specialist sorting machinery.

There will be an element of heavy ‘aggregate’ remaining, which may need reprocessing separately to ensure it is as clean as possible.

By this point your waste has been sorted as best as economically possible, ready for the next part of it’s journey!

What happens to sorted waste?

Some of it needs some pre-processing before it goes elsewhere.

Anything made of metal may be stripped down into separate metal types (at least the quick and easy parts) to increase value for the company. Cardboard and certain plastics may be baled, (fed into a machine which ‘squashes’ the material to condense it to use up less volume, at which point it is tied up into bales). Carpet may also be baled, with vinyl and underlays being segregated from wool and nylon products. So called ‘hard’ plastics may be separated further as some can be recycled more easily than others.

At this point the company has their final ‘product’ and your waste is about to go on it’s next journey, possibly all the way around the world!

What happens when waste leaves the skip company or transfer station?

The waste will be collected by other companies or haulage operators to be taken to a variety of places. Some will recycle themselves, such as some Materials Recycling Facilities, others will do more pre-processing and some will simply store the waste until moving it on again. Following is a list of the more common waste types and what might happen to them:

Aggregate goes off to specialist companies, often associated with quarries, who sell the material straight on for building and construction work. They may grind the material up to ensure consistency of size.

Wood waste usually goes to a specialist wood recycler in walking floor haulage trailers (great pieces of machinery which can ‘push’ the load out of the back of the trailer and carry a huge amount if loaded carefully). Usually the wood is shredded and sometimes re-shredded. The final product may be used for biomass fuel, composting or horse tracks and stables. Finding new outlets for the material is a constant challenge for wood recyclers.

Carpet is one of those materials which people used to just send to landfill. However, there are other uses for it today. There are some interesting companies looking into recycling options. As it stands today most end up as Refuse Derived Fuel or Solid Refuse Fuel. It is burnt, usually in cement kilns. Most UK companies go through a third party organising this and demand fluctuates. As there has been an increase in people using this avenue those facilities who utilise it are able to demand higher standards.

Card/Paper if relatively uncontaminated will end up at paper mills for recycling into new paper and card. This will sometimes go via a Materials Recycling Facility who may check the quality and do some sorting, or shredding in the case of paper. There are mills in the UK and up until recently much of it went to China. A rebate is usually achieved on this for the company.

Metal apart from hazardous waste (i.e. fridges/freezers, CRT televisions/monitors) ends up at scrap metal yards, where it is processed further. Once separated into individual metal types it goes to different operations where it is recycled into raw product which can be used to make new items.

So do skip companies recycle?

Well, on a technical level no. They are not directly recycling anything. But in the same way you would consider yourself recycling by putting cardboard in a separate bin at home and glass bottles in a bottle bank, then yes, they do recycle.

Also technically there is a lower percentage of waste which actually gets recycled, compared to saying it is diverted from landfill. Some of the items sent for recycling will end up being burned for Energy from Waste, or possibly at landfill anyway as by product from the processing which occurs.

This however has little reflection on the skip company as they are doing the best they can to find alternative homes for your waste, avoiding sending it to landfills!

Dan: 7th Dec 2017 11:34:00

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