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What can and can’t be recycled

BBC News – “There are some common rules – and pervasive myths. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about it. Have you ever wondered if you need to wash your plastic trays before putting them into the recycling? Or should you put them in a plastic bag before throwing them into the recycling bin? How about soaking the labels off bottles before putting them out for collection? And what about leaving the caps on bottles? The rules of recycling can feel confusing, particularly when they can differ so much from area to area. While BBC Future can’t claim to provide a definitive guide on what to recycle where you live, we decided to embark on a journey to learn what exactly happens to our recycling after it is collected. Along the way we will correct some of the myths, and share tips from the experts on how to recycle considerately. So where does your recycling go? And what happens to it? Domestic recycling first goes to a material recovery facility (MRF). These buildings, typically the size of a football pitch, are a whirling mass of conveyors and machines. The recycling is first unloaded and then tipped into a machine that shreds plastic bags with a mechanical claw. While in much of Europe it is normal for communal recycling bins to be segregated by type, in the UK and the US household recycling is usually commingled – and that’s what I’ve come to see. At the next stage, the recycling is given a first pass by a small team of human sorters. According to Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology at Veolia in the UK, 80% of the sorting is done by machines and 20% is done by hand. These first human sorters search for large items that shouldn’t be there and might slow down the machines, such as clothes or towels, which can get tangled up. On my visit, two bins filled with frying pans stand to one side, and a beaten up microwave is pulled from the belt. These definitely shouldn’t be in with the domestic recycling…”

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