The city of London’s dual-stream recycling system collects containers and papers to recycle separately. All residential recycling, including anything from homes, apartments, and even Fanshawe and Western, is brought to the Materials Recovery Facility just south of Hwy 401.
But once the materials are out of their hands, most Londoners don’t know what happens to them. Anne Boyd has been the Manager of Waste Diversion Programs in London for over 25 years, and she knows the details of all the steps that take place inside the facility.
“Let’s start with the container line,” she says. “The first step, when we receive material, is to try to clean it up before it actually goes through to the various machines.” This pre-sorting process would be unnecessary if everyone in London recycled perfectly, she adds.
Many different machines separate specific materials along the way, such as a giant magnet that removes steel cans, and an air classifier that blows light materials upwards and allows heavy materials to drop down.
The most complex machine follows: the optical sorter. This machine uses an infrared light to identify each individual item that quickly passes along the conveyor belt, activating different air jets to sort different materials further.
Any non-recyclables that make it through the lengthy process eventually arrive at the end of the line where they are sent off to the landfill.
Over in the paper line, two screening processes allow smaller, finer paper products to fall through, as the larger materials move along the top. Any paper products that are intertwined with plastics, such as an empty case for plastic water bottles, must be separated by hand.
Boyd urges London residents to properly separate their papers and containers into the two different streams offered. “There are two key points that I like to stress,” Boyd says. “One is to recycle as much as you can. On average, we’re only recycling about 70 percent of what we could. And the rest, the 30 percent, actually just goes into a garbage bag. And secondly, if you’re going to recycle, just sort it correctly. If you don’t do that, it makes our job more difficult, we won’t be able to capture as much, and we won’t get as much money for it. So recycle as much as you can, and sort it properly.”
Improper recycling costs the city of London hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. So do your part, and put the right materials in the right bin.