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Research on Materials Recycling Facilities Explores Glass Quality Boost

Published on 14 February 2014

There has been much debate on the impact of the commingled material plant process on the quality of glass, including statements that collecting paper and glass together was akin to vandalism. Research conducted by Dr Benjamin Eule reveals that effective processing of commingled recyclable material means removing the glass as soon as possible. Dr Eule is the author of this research, a doctorate thesis on UK Materials Recycling Facilities or MRFs.

He believes his analysis of the data provided by UK MRFs could provide the basis for the development of a ‘blue print processing block flow for commingled recyclate with glass”. This has the potential to boost the quality of MRF sorted glass and therefore benefit the recycling industry as a whole and the glass recycling industry in particular.

The aim of the research was to find the optimum process for sorting commingled recyclable materials with glass. He said that he hopes that his work will go towards developing and improving the recycling performances of UK MRFs, reducing the amount of damage done to a plant by glass, and enable a higher quality of glass for recycling. Dr Eule also said that he does believe that it is easier to simply collect glass separately from other materials.

The Findings

Based on data from MRFs in Ford, Peterborough, Crayford and Ipswich, Dr Eule found that it was very important to understand the input. Knowing the material density and composition is necessary information if you want to apply the correct process for effective processing for product purity and economical production.

He found that there are a variety of different challenges when it comes to processing recyclable materials, including:

  1. Separation of plastic bags and paper
  2. Isolating newspaper from lower grade paper
  3. Consumers putting incorrect materials out to be recycled and causing contamination
  4. Refuse vehicles being used for other purposes and causing contamination
  5. Separating different types of paper

Dr Eule suggests manual sorting before materials get submitted to a recycling plant, to remove large or obvious contamination which has the potential to damage the process. He argues that a number of different factors can contribute the effective processing of recyclable materials, including investment and development. Dr Eule said that it was “financially achievable” to produce quality glass from MRFs, but that is may be easier for those taking on higher tonnage and longer contracts, as they are the types of plants that can invest more time and money.

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