Recycling at the MRF

What happens to your recycling once it’s collected from your house?

Recycling trucks collect approximately 600 recycling bins before delivering their load to the transfer station in Lonsdale. There, the materials are baled up ready to be transported to SKM Recycling’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting and separation.

A MRF is like a huge workshop where the recyclable materials that are collected from homes and businesses are taken to be sorted into different types or “streams” such as paper, plastics and aluminium. Some of the sorting is done by machines and some is done by hand.

After they have been separated into different streams, the materials are then transported to various manufacturers where they are reprocessed into recycled products such as glass containers, aluminium cans, paper, cardboard, plastic packaging and steel products.

So basically, your yellow/recycling bin is there to collect packaging, to be recycled into more packaging.

How does it work?

Materials are pushed onto a conveyor belt to begin the sorting process:

Manual Sort

By hand, sorters remove larger, obvious contaminants (such as bagged items, clothing, gas cylinders, car batteries, carpet, etc.)

It’s very important that certain items are kept out of the recycling bin as they can be dangerous, contaminate the other recyclables, or damage the sorting equipment.

Find out more about what should go in which bin.


A vibrating disc screen is used to separate items paper and cardboard from other recyclables.

Screening systems have holes of different sizes to allow different sized items to fall through. For example, small pieces of glass will fall through screens at a different place to steel can.

Paper & Cardboard
Once separated out from other recyclables, sorters manually separate out the cardboard. Materials are then baled.


Different pieces of equipment, combined by more manual sorting are used to separate containers by material type and size: steel, glass, aluminium and plastic.

Steel cans
Strong magnets are used to full out steel cans and other ferrous metals ready for baling for sale.

Materials then pass through a Glass recyclables pass through an automated ceramic detection system removing ceramic product which contaminates the recyclables and glass fines (which are then separated for recycling).

Then an “air classifier” separates heavy items such as glass from lighter items such as aluminium and plastic by blowing the lighter items away from the heavier items. The glass is then separated into clear, brown and green by an optical sorting process. Materials are stored ready for transport.

Because aluminium does not container iron, magnets will not separate aluminium cans and foil. A magnetic field is used to generate an electrical current called an “eddy current” in the aluminium. This current generates a secondary magnetic field in the aluminium that causes it to be pushed away from the other materials and separated. Materials are then stored ready for transport.

Plastics go through and optical sorting system which separates the plastic into different grades such as PET/White, HDPE/Coloured, HDPE/PP ready for baling.


What happens to your recycling flowchart


What happens to the sorted materials?

Old and unwanted becomes new and useful. Once sorted at the materials recovery facility (MRF), recyclable product is sold to recyclers & manufacturers to make new products. Some, but not all items for common recyclable items are listed below.

Old newspapers are recycled to make new newspaper

Glass bottles & jars
Glass is 100% recyclable and can be made into new glass bottles and jars
Glass for different uses is made differently – so only bottles and jars can go in the yellow/recycling bin

Paper & Cardboard
Old paper & cardboard are recycled into making new paper & cardboard products

Steel cans
Recycled steel can be melted and made into almost any type of steel items such as more steel cans, road signs or truck or car parts

Aluminium cans
Recycled aluminium can be made into cans, car parts and a range of other products


PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers

Recycled into: new soft drink bottles, detergent bottles, Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, panelling, straps, PET plastic packaging sheets, etc.

HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Found in: Milk bottles, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; butter and yogurt tubs.

Recycled into: Milk bottles, laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

V (Vinyl) or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, some clear food packaging

Recycled into: Decks, panelling, mud flaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

LDPE (low density polyethylene)
Found in: Squeezable bottles

Recycled into: rubbish bin liners and bins, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tiles

PP (polypropylene)
Found in: some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles

Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

PS (polystyrene)
NO foam in your kerbside bin – please place in red waste to landfill bin

Found in: foam packaging, disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases

Mixed plastics (other)
Found in: water cooler water bottles, certain food containers

Recycled into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

Did you know?

Recycling one tonne of paper and cardboard saves 13 trees

Recycling one tonne of steel saves 1131kg of iron ore

A recycled aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for 3 hours

Manufacturing plastics from recycled materials uses 70% less energy than making plastic products from fossil fuels

More info…