You’ve been recycling cans wrong all your life
23 April 2019, 17:13
Once a can is crushed, it becomes much more difficult to detect for sensors used for sorting items at recycling plants
As a country, the United Kingdom is striding towards becoming more eco-friendly with multiple recycling schemes being introduced to the nation's homes.
But people who recycle aluminium cans could be wasting their efforts if they crush the can before placing them in the correct bin.
Most recyciling facilities use single-stream systems - which means that everything arrives mixed together and is then sorted by high-tech sensors.
The sensors work on material type and shape, so crunching a can to a flat shape means it is less likely to be recognised and sorted.
Even worse, the crushed cans could be mistaken for cardboard or paper, which would lead to the entire batch of paper recycling being sent to the landfill.
A spokesperson for US firm Recyclebank explained: ‘While cans are recycled at high rates, more than 40 billion cans still end up in landfills in the U.S. each year. That’s $800 million of lost material that could otherwise be recycled back into a new product.’"
Metro investigated the problem to see if it also an issue facing UK recycling plants, or if it only impacted American services. They discovered that even on this side of the ocean, a crushed can is a big problem for sensors used.
Sean Pettitt, the director of Purely Waste Solutions, told Metro.co.uk: ‘If you put all of your recyclables in the same bin which then goes to a materials recovery facility to be segregated, it can make it harder for a squashed can to be separated.
‘The reason for this is that it is easier for equipment to sort intact aluminium cans due to the larger surface area of the material for the eddy current separator to detect.'
However, as long as you keep all of your recyclable cans in a separate container, then even when crushed the cans should be detectable to the recycling sensors.