Visiting Exeter Material Reclamation Facility

Whilst Yadi was over in the UK, Chani and some of the team made a trip to the Exeter Material Reclamation Facility to see what Exeter City Council do with the community’s waste. The facility takes household recycling (paper, tin, card, plastic), paper banks and local trade waste, separating materials using a combination of machines and manual workers.

Machines are good…

An intricate system of conveyor belts and gadgets separate out materials, including: 

  • TiTech Optical Sorters – use a small amount of light (and hence heat) to sort materials
  • Metal Detectors – identify steel and aluminium cans
  • Near Infrared (NIR) sensors – further sort plastics
  • High precision pressurised air jets – remove plastic film, brown card and printed card (all greeting cards) – which sadly have no recyclable value 🙁

Like with many recycling centers, black plastic, polystyrene and mixed media plastic (e.g. tetra pak) are not currently recycled and still head to landfill. Ones for the avoid list. 

People are great…

The rest of the operation relies on humans and their dedication to produce a high-quality product. Clean materials can be sold for higher prices – vital for cash-strapped councils.

The team were proud of their work enabling valuable materials to be re-used rather than heading to landfill. Morale was high, despite sorting being an intense occupation and we were impressed by the clean and surprisingly odour free environment! 

The team here proactively seek recycling opportunities and new innovative uses for recovered materials. Creativity is essential to achieving high-prices, and to do this – the people are as important as the technology!

This level of commitment is so important when inspiring people to recycle

To date, the profits have paid for operation (maintenance, salaries and running costs), which is pretty impressive. However it does not cover interest payments, capital finance costs, or investment in new technologies.

We left the facility feeling appreciative of the Council’s hard work. On behalf of CLEAR we’d like to say a big thank you to Rowan Griffith, the centre supervisor, for our guided tour! 🙂

We would highly recommend visiting your local recycling facility to see how it is operated, and help us to raise the profile of this vital service.