The sorting centre, step by step

At the sorting centre, 50% of the sorting is done by employees.

For most of us, recycling is something we now do by force of habit; it’s part of our daily lives. But have you ever wondered what happens to your recyclables once they leave your home? Are all those items really recycled? Recyclable waste takes a very different path than waste that is taken to landfill! Several steps are necessary before they can be transformed. Here are the main steps:

Collecting

Once in the bin, the items are picked up by a company responsible for recycling collection, and taken to the regional sorting centre.

Sorting the items

At the sorting centre, the items are transferred from the truck to a conveyor belt that takes them to the first stage of sorting.  This is where the whole process really gets underway!

Pre-sorting

First stage: remove the non-recyclable items. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things they find: wood, facial tissue, and I could go on! It’s important to carefully assess what you put in your bin!

Sorting

The items are sent all together into several separators. The fibres (paper and cardboard) are separated from the containers (of all sorts). Once the containers have been gathered together, they are sorted into categories: aluminum cans, food cans, glass bottles and plastic containers. Several methods are used. For example, an electromagnet is used to pick out the metal cans. The plastic containers are sorted based on what the recycling companies are looking for. A state-of-the-art optical sorter determines their compositional make up, and a jet of air sends them into the appropriate compartment. In a sorting centre, machines and humans work side by side in a complementary fashion. Approximately 50% of the sorting is done mechanically by separators, and the rest by employees. Did you know that paper makes up about 70% of the recyclable waste, while containers make up the remaining 30%?

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Packaging in bails

The sorted materials are gathered together, and then transferred to a machine that compresses them into bails. These bails are no longer waste, but raw materials that will be used to make new products! They will be sold to companies in the recycling and recovery business, such as Cascades. Recycling companies will transform the materials into various products, such as park benches (plastic), bathroom tissue (paper), and new wine bottles (glass).

As you can see, recycling is an enormous undertaking! Let’s all be careful and really pay attention to which items we put in our recycling bins. As they say, recycling is remaking!

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About the Author
Anne-Marie Gingras

A Communications Advisor with Cascades since 2011, Anne-Marie now also fulfills the position of Community Manager. She holds a BA in Public Communication from the Université Laval and a Certificate in Marketing from the Université de Trois-Rivières. As Community Manager, she is in constant contact with the public, sharing the company's newest innovations and reporting on its involvement within the communities it calls home. "I am very pleased to have the opportunity to work for a company that is responsible, respectful and transparent. It gives me a great sense of pride! Through social media, we are now able to interact with the population and we value this close contact. Cascades is an organization that encourages creativity and initiative, which allows us to develop in a very stimulating work environment."

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