New waste sorting machine could turn around UK’s abysmal recycling record

A new mechanical waste sorting system could allow local authorities to recycle as much as 70% of household waste, with no dependence on the co-operation of householders to sort their own garbage, say its manufacturers.

Following 30 months of commercial testing at a plant in Stockton-on-Tees, the Armadillo – otherwise known as the Kinetic Streamer System – has proved that it can cope with full spectrum of household waste, says Wastec, the company that developed the machine. According to Wastec figures, the Armadillo has the potential to achieve an 88% recycling rate. However, the company is unwilling to make such a high claim until the system has undergone further testing.

The Armadillo processes 12,000 tonnes – 14% – of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s household waste, Chris Hayward, Waste and Fleet Services Manager at the Council, told edie. Currently, 30% of materials are being successfully extracted for recycling, with markets being found for metals, plastic and glass. Organic materials are also being used as cover for landfill – also included in the recycling total.

Stockton-on-Tees currently recycles less than 10% of its household waste, Hayward admitted, but the Council is about to launch a curb-side collection scheme, and has expanded its ‘bring’ scheme for bottle banks. Hayward says that he sees the Armadillo as a complement to more conventional recycling collection programmes.

Currently, the UK is languishing disgracefully at the bottom of the European Union’s recycling league table, with 82% of municipal waste being buried in landfill sites.

“We need to do something, and do something quickly,” the Armadillo’s creator, and Managing Director of Wastec, told edie.

“If government targets are to be met, a step change is needed in the industry,” said Antony Horsley, Commercial Director of Wastec. “Recovery, re-use and recycling cannot take place without high quality, efficient and economic separation into sufficiently pure raw materials.”

The twin Armadillo – the system recommended for local authorities – can process around 60,000 tonnes of waste per year, says Wastec, separating out steel, aluminium, glass, plastic, paper and organic matter. Bin bags are shredded, and the contents separated by a huge shaking domed plate, with heavier items behaving in a different way to lighter items, so falling off in different places.

One drawback of the system is that organic matter and paper become mixed. This means that under European Union legislation, the paper cannot be used for recycling. However, Wastec has found that when turned into pellets the waste paper could be used as a form of renewable fuel.

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