Where does your kerbside recycling go?

Putting the right things in your recycling bin is just the start of a whole new life for your recyclables. Before items such as bottles, cans, paper, plastics, glass, cardboard and aluminium are turned into new products, they are sent to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to be sorted into different streams and baled, ready for domestic or export sale.


Look behind the scenes at the process that prepares your unwanted recyclables to be turned into something new. (Full transcript below)



Learn about Cleanaway’s state-of-the-art MRF in Perth, where up to 97% of all material received is recovered.


Full transcript – What happens to your recyclables?

Have you ever wondered what happens to your recyclables after you’ve put them in your recycling bin? Look behind the scenes at the process that transforms your unwanted bottles, cans and paper, into something new.


1. (Truck collects recyclables from the kerb)

It all starts when the recycling truck collects your recyclables from your kerbside bin. The driver controls the hydraulic arms that reach out and pick up the bin. There needs to be space between the bins so the arms have room to pick the bin up.


When recyclables are emptied into the truck, a camera in the hopper helps the driver to see the contents of the bin. The driver uses the camera to check that only recyclable items were in the bin.


Everything else, including recyclables sealed in plastic bags, is consider contamination.


2. (Truck transports recyclables to Albany MRF)

 All the recycling collected from the recycling bins is taken to a Material Recovery Facility, or a merf (MRF), to be processed. The truck empties the recyclables onto the retrieval belt.


 3. (Recyclables fed into spinning trommel)

 The contents travel along a conveyor belt and enter a large spinning cylindrical sieve. This is called a trommel.


4. (Trommel separates recyclables)

While the trommel whizzes around, large, heavier items fall through its holes and land on another conveyor belt. Meanwhile, paper and cardboard are light enough to flow through the trommel and onto a different conveyor belt.


5. (First waste sorting station)

From here, manual sorters remove cardboard from the belt. Cardboard is sent via a chute to a baler. Paper, now the only product left on the belt, continues along to be fluffed and baled.


In 2016, Cleanaway recycled over 227,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard.


Did you know that each tonne of paper we recycle saves 13 trees?


6. (Steel conveyor)

Remember the larger items that fell through the holes of the trommel onto a conveyor belt?


The conveyer belt carries these along to the sorting station. There is strong magnet above the conveyor that attracts the steel cans off the belt and into a product-holding cage. Any recyclables left on the conveyer are sorted manually by the workers.


The workers sort the aluminium cans and plastic bottles, by throwing them into holding cages.


One worker sorts plastic milk bottles – these are known as HDPE. Clear plastic bottles are called P.E.T.


Another worker sorts aluminium cans and all the other plastic containers.


Did you know that recycling one aluminium can, could save enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours?


Now – what do you think the last remaining recyclable item on the belt is? It’s glass!


A worker sorts the glass from the remaining waste and puts it into a special cage, to avoid the glass breaking.


After all the recyclables have been recovered any waste remaining on the belt falls into a waste bin and goes to landfill.


7. (Product baled and ready for sale)

All of the materials have now been separated into paper, cardboard, plastics, steel, aluminium and glass.


These materials are made into bales, ready to be sent to the next facility and turned into new products.


Aluminium can become new aluminium cans, or even part of an aeroplane.


Recycled Steel is used to make refrigerators and cars.


Paper and cardboard becomes new paper, egg cartons, and kitty litter.


Glass can become part of construction materials, road surfaces, insulation or new glass bottles.


Plastic turns into polar fleece for warm clothes and even park benches.


8. (Finish)

Putting the right things in your recycling bin is just the start of a whole new life for your recyclable materials. And the more recyclables we can save from landfill, the closer we get to making a sustainable future possible.