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What is Waste Sorting Process?

As the name suggests, the waste sorting process is where waste is sorted into categories, according to material or recyclability. 

Waste sorting happens at many levels of society and sizes, from the general public using different bins for different waste types, to businesses separating recyclable materials. Households sort waste for curb-side collections, separating general waste, food waste, and recyclable materials for collection. 

More detailed waste sorting takes place at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where waste is deposited, sorted, then prepared for the next stage of disposal. 

Beginning with the individual separating waste types, and ending with the disposal or recycling of materials, the waste sorting process is critical to effective and efficient recycling. Although varying, here is the waste sorting process that occurs at an MRF using in-house collection vehicles:


l  Waste enters MRF – Whether waste is brought to an MRF by the general public or collection vehicles, waste loads are weighed and recorded so as to track waste transfer (Waste Transfer Note provided). For businesses, this stage is key to recording waste management as well as recycling. 


l  Waste emptied – Waste is emptied onto conveyer belts ready to be sorted. There is usually a pre-sort area where non-recyclable materials are removed.


l  Waste sorted – Depending on the materials and amounts, the processes of sorting vary. There are advanced technologies developed for waste sorting, however certain stages may be performed manually too. From trommels and ballistic separators to sort glass and paper, to scanners and magnets for metal sorting, MRFs are well equipped for a variety of waste types.


l  Waste processed – Once sorted into types, waste will be subject to quality checks to monitor impurities. Certain materials may be sorted further, for example separating different grades of paper or cardboard.


l  Waste prepared for shipment – Prior to leaving the MRF or being further processed for recycling, materials will be prepared for shipment. This may involve baling, shredding, crushing, compacting etc. to keep the sorted material together and space efficient while moving.


l  Waste repurposed – Where possible, materials are reused, repurposed and recycled. By implementing the Waste Hierarchy and exploring other disposal methods, waste processors aim to divert waste from landfill.

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