A Materials Recovery Facility, MRF, is where recycling goes after it is picked up by a hauler. Multiple haulers can use the same MRF, as they are usually not hauler specific facilities. The visual below shows the process of how a mixed recycling stream is sorted at a MRF.
1) Recycling is picked up throughout an area at residential homes and businesses by a hauler.
2) Various haulers in the area then bring the recycling they have collected to a Materials Recovery Facility.
3) At the Materials Recovery Facility, the recycling gets loaded onto a conveyor belt where workers manually remove contamination. The contaminates usually are plastic film like plastic bags and candy wrappers, but also wires, textiles, and organics. This is an important step because if not removed, these items can cause severe damage to the sorting equipment.
4) Cardboard and paper products are the first recyclables to be separated. As the recycling stream moves down the conveyor belt, large wheels divert and propel the cardboard and paper up as the heavier items fall through.
5) As the lightweight paper materials is sorted out, the remaining glass, metals, and plastics continue down the conveyor belt.
6) The metals are the next material to be removed. Large magnets collect steel cans and other magnetic metal as it passes by.
7) After the steel is drawn out by magnets, an eddy current is created by a magnet field which repels aluminum and other non-ferrous metals into a separate bin.
8) Glass bottles and jars are then separated from the remaining plastics using a density blower. A jet air stream hits each item, blowing the lightweight plastics onto a different route.
9) The heavier glass does not get redirected by the air and continues down the original conveyor belt to be hammered or grinded into finely crushed glass, known as cullet.
10) The remaining plastic is sorted by optical lasers that determine the resin type and sort each plastic into its appropriate bin.
Once the separating process is complete there are six different collections of recyclables: cardboard and paper, steel, aluminum, glass, and plastic. Each material is compacted and bailed and sent to specific materials recycling facilities where they are further processed in order to become suitable for use in manufacturing.