Doubts about waste recycling? Here are the most common questions

Doubts about waste recycling? Here are the most common questions

Recycling is much more than a social commitment, it is the way in which each one of us can take care of the environment in an active and direct way. But how much do you actually know about recycling? We will give you the answers to the most common questions about recycling.

Where to dispose of contact lenses?

The first thing you have to know is that contact lenses are not biodegradable. This means that they cannot be flushed down the toilet, as you would be contributing to contaminating the water with microplastics.

So do we have to put them in the recycling container? Well neither, since it is doesn’t belong to any type of container. Contact lenses go directly to the residual waste container. The one with mixed waste that cannot be sorted out for recycling.

Where to put the pizza boxes?

The pizza boxes are made of cardboard but can they be thrown away with old newspapers? The answer to this question has caused some controversy.

According to environmental associations such as Greenpeace, Ecologists in Action and Friends of the Earth, no matter how much cardboard it contains, it should not be thrown into the paper container, since a stained cardboard box can no longer be recycled. Therefore it should go to the residual waste container. Importantly though, not the whole box tends to get dirty, so you can remove the clean part and throw it in the paper recycling container.

What belongs with organic waste?

The organic waste container is not yet present in all cities, but it is on its way. In some municipalities there are initiatives to create composting areas by neighborhoods or communities. In others it is decided to include one more container for organic waste.

Be that as it may be, in this container you have to put the remains of food (e.g. egg shells, infusion or tea bags, shellfish remains), used kitchen paper, potting soil or garden remains, authentic cork stoppers, grounds of coffee etc. In short, everything that has an untreated natural origin or is biodegradable.

What cannot be included in this container are pads or diapers. You cannot put droppings of any kind, wipes (even if they say they are biodegradable on the package), remains of the ashtray or coffee capsules, cat litter or textile remains with organic waste.

Where can you throw away used oil?

Used oil should not be thrown down the sink or the toilet, it is essential that you take this into account and act accordingly.

Recycling oil is the simplest thing there is. You can use it to turn it into homemade soap for example. You will be impressed by how easy it is and how few materials or ingredients you need. On the other hand, if you prefer to recycle, you simply have to store it at home in a plastic bottle (you can reuse the water or oil bottles) and fill them up.

All oils can be recycled but you cannot mix food oils with motor or industrial oils.

Where to throw away coffee capsules?

Many misunderstandings circulate on the internet regarding the recycling of these coffee capsules. The first thing you have to know is that these should not be put in the recycling container, regardless whether they are aluminium or plastic.

In some areas, there are collection points with a section for coffee capsules. Another option is to check with the brand of coffee capsules as they usually have collection areas themselves.

How to throw away tetra bricks?

It’s understandable that there is confusion among many people about tetra bricks, whether they are for milk, juice or any other product. In its composition, it has a high cardboard content, which is why the controversy arises. Does it belong with paper recycling?

Certainly not! Tetra bricks also contain plastic and aluminum, two compounds that make them suitable for recycling with other packaging materials.

Efficient recycling needs innovative technology

Efficient recycling needs innovative technology

Aluminium can be recycled an unlimited number of times with a high level of quality, especially if scrap can be sorted according to type. If you take the entire recycling process into account, on average only 5% of the energy that was used for the previous primary production is required. The light metal is thus a core component of a resource-saving circular economy. Sorted material fractions that are already mixed with exactly the amounts of alloying metal required for the intended next application are ideal for quick and clean recycling.

Aluminum manufacturers can secure such pure fractions from the residues of their own production processes. Though, it becomes more difficult with scrap from manufacturers further up in the supply chain, be it manufacturers of facades, packaging materials or vehicles. They usually use different alloys or materials and cannot separate every residue by type. It is even more difficult to obtain pure fractions when separating collected products at the end of their use: cans from street collection containers are common in many countries. Their components are often connected to plastics. Car parts are often joined from different groups of materials.

Norwegian Hydro continues to develop processes for sorting and separating materials, right down to the separation of alloy groups. An important basis is a technology funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment and offered for further licensing. With it, Hydro separates used components with the highest precision in the industry. Hydro Research & Development has perfected this technology to become the best sorting process for used beverage cans: since June 2016, a state-of-the-art facility in Neuss (Germany) has been processing up to 50,000 tons or 3 billion beverage cans a year. The short life cycle in particular makes the environmental advantage obvious; a can handed in for recycling via the Green Dot is often produced and filled back on the shelf in just 60 days.

Thanks to more and more aluminum, lighter vehicles are emerging that use less fuel and therefore emit less CO2. The press shops in the automotive industry punch various sheet metal components mostly from 5xxx or 6xxx aluminum alloys. This requires separation of production scrap and makes recycling of this scrap complex.

This applies all the more to the recycling of vehicles at the end of their useful life. When shredding vehicles, components often made of different alloys, for example with a high silicon content, are mixed together with wrought alloys with lower and different alloys. Due to its higher silicon content, the alloy mixture obtained from this can usually only be used as a starting material for cast alloys.

Leap in development for improved automobile recycling

On the other hand, the most modern sorting technology makes it possible to maintain the quality of the automotive materials. The problems that still exist with a clean separation of 5xxx and 6xxx alloys for recycling should soon be solved thanks to Hydro’s cooperation with the US company Austin AI. Their technology is based on laser-induced emission spectroscopy (LIBS: Laser-induced-breakdown-spectroscopy) and shows advantages compared to other LIBS configurations. There are already good results in clean sorting and clear separation of these alloys. A pilot project sorting plant is currently being built at Hydro R&D in Bonn in order to bring the process to robust industrial maturity.

LIBS was studied by Metallgesellschaft AG as early as the 1980s and later by Huron Valley Steel Corporation. This automated sorting technology uses a laser pulse to vaporize part of the sample surface. The resulting plasma is analyzed with spectrometers in milliseconds and compared with the sorting task. Pulses of compressed air then separate the desired aluminum parts from the rest of the scrap stream.

With today’s developments, particular attention is paid to economic feasibility using the latest laser and spectrometer technologies. This means: With a required throughput of a few tons per hour, depending on the weight, several hundred pieces of scrap must be analyzed and sorted within a second. The process then closes a highly effective cycle for scrap and end-of-life vehicles, with significant savings in energy, resources and effort – another boost for sustainable lightweight construction with aluminum.

Research and development of new technologies play an important role in the future of all kinds of recycling. BOMAC Industries is committed to the development of these technologies, not only for the recycling of aluminium, copper and other metals but for all kinds of waste such as plastic waste recycling and paper recycling as well.