Bristol Business Blog: Daniel Peacey, regional sales manager, Grundon. The importance and practicalities of segregating waste

April 25, 2023

You may have seen TV coverage of the trial we are carrying out at our materials recovery facility (MRF) near Cheltenham, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the sorting and recovery of plastic waste.

The MRF in question is one of six around the South of England at which we process thousands of tonnes of mixed waste each year. 

These highly specialised facilities employ a combination of human expertise and automatic sorting technology to separate and prepare recyclable materials, which are then marketed to end-user producers.

Ideally, these materials will comprise of paper, card, aluminium and steel cans, plastics and glass bottles.

However, our operatives increasingly see non-compliant items added into mixed recycling – with potentially damaging consequences.

Typically, these might include batteries, food, fluorescent tubes, nappies, tablet blister packs, needles or helium balloon canisters.

Some of these – such as lithium-ion batteries – can spark fires simply by coming into contact with liquid, while others are health hazards.

So we are keen to encourage customers to take a much closer look at what goes into their mixed recycling.

Keeping it simple

We recognise that people in busy workplaces might find it hard to remember which bin applies to which type of waste. So we keep things simple with, predominantly, a two-bin collection system.

The first is for all recyclable materials – paper (including newspapers, magazines, catalogues and envelopes); card and cardboard; steel and aluminium cans; high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastics like milk bottles and shampoo bottles; polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics like water and soft drinks bottles; polypropylene (PP) plastics like packaging, labelling and textiles; mixed plastics like yoghurt pots and food trays; clean plastic films; Tetra Pak cartons; and glass of all colours.

The second is for all non-recyclable general waste.

We also recommend, where possible, separate glass and food waste collection bins.

Challenges to deal with

There are various nuances to consider – for example paper cups with plastic or waxed coatings, which can’t be recycled without specialist equipment, or different grades of aluminium used in coffee refills versus drinks cans.

On which note, did you know that while Pepsi uses steel cans, Coca-Cola prefers aluminium ones? That means Coke cans need specialist magnets to recover the metal – three times as expensive as their steel counterparts.

Then, of course, there is the issue of contamination with clinical and hazardous waste – unpleasant, potentially dangerous, risky to our employees and damaging to equipment. Separate collections are required for these.

Unfortunately, there are cost implications for non-conformance, as one single item of contaminated waste can render a whole container, and sometimes a whole vehicle full of waste, as non-compliant. That means charging an increased contaminated waste rate to the customer and potentially means we have to consign all the recyclables to energy from waste – something we try to avoid wherever possible.

The right solution

Education and engagement are absolutely key to achieving the right blend of mixed recyclables. Our teams work very hard with our customers to ensure they understand disposal routes for different types of waste.

What we want to achieve is a situation where customers don’t have to worry about different collections on different days and all the paperwork that comes with it.

Separate food waste containers will reduce your waste bill by taking heavy food waste out of your waste while balers enable large amounts of cardboard to be baled on site and also cut disposal costs.

Whatever the waste stream, our team of experts can save you money by delivering the right solutions – and ensure everyone stays safe.

To find out more about how your business can recycle more and reduce your waste management costs, contact or call 01179 826 590.


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