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What happens to our recycling?

Ever wondered what it looks like inside a recycling facility? We had the privilege of visiting Veolia’s recycling management centre in Southwark a few weeks ago to find out just that!

We had a guided tour from the Veolia team who explained to us how the waste is sorted by hand and also by machines. For instance, overband magnet and Eddy current separator are used to separate waste. With Eddy currant a powerful magnetic field separates non-ferrous metals from waste after all ferrous metals have been removed previously by some arrangement of magnets.

Picture 1: Loading the recycling waste ; Picture 2: Machine sorting aluminium with eddy currant magnet

Did you know? Only three types of plastic is commonly recyclable. The most widely recycled plastics are the ones used to make soft drinks bottles and milk bottles: PET and HDPE. You can look for those symbols to identify whether an item is recyclable.

The machines are capable to sort waste automatically according to their material (plastic, aluminium or paper for instance). The sorted waste is then checked again by the staff and finally compressed into blocs that will be sent to the recycling centres.

All the collected and sorted waste is not always recycled in the UK. Indeed, the country doesn’t have the capacity, the capabilities and the facilities to manage all recovered paper for instance. Therefore, Veolia often sends it to other countries in Europe but also overseas on boats so that those material can actually be recycled.

It was interesting to see how households waste is managed and the waste sorting and recycling processes are really done. Waste management represents a big sustainability issue. In London alone, there are 33 boroughs with different policies in terms of recycling and food waste management.

Thank you Veolia!

Recycling information can be found on your borough website and

Find more information about Veolia on

Find more information about Elysia, our event and concept on



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