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Recycling is one of the ways businesses can help to conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, do you know what happens to your recycling once it goes in the bin?

The recycling process has many stages and there can be challenges along the way. That’s why here at 15Hatfields we have a comprehensive policy in place that goes to great lengths to track and measure our recycling efforts once our bins have been emptied.

We also work hard to ensure we know exactly where our recycling goes and also what happens to it. Doing so not only helps to track our impact, but also helps us ensure that the majority of what we do recycle is successfully repurposed.

Ahead of Global Recycling Day on 18 March, we caught up with waste management experts and partners, Pulse Environmental and Bywaters. We visited Bywaters' Lea Riverside recycling facility in East London where Pulse deliver our recyclables to be processed. Continue reading to learn what happens when you recycle at our award winning venue.

Streams and sorting technologies

The Lea Riverside facility receives around 400 tonnes of dry mixed recycling each day. The mixed recyclables travel by conveyor belt through a variety of technologies to be sorted into different materials. The Lea Riverside facility has five streams just for plastic: PET (water bottles), HDPE (milk cartons), hard mixed plastics (yoghurt pots), clear film and coloured film. Sorting technologies include near infrared to detect PET, magnets to attract ferrous metals, and eddy currents to repel non-ferrous metals.

While the machinery is impressive, people play a crucial part in quality control. Recycling operatives are responsible for identifying nonrecyclables, contaminants and recyclables which are unsuitable for machine sorting. For example, at the Lea Riverside facility large HDPE bottles can be recycled but need to be removed by hand.

To ensure our items can be processed safely and successfully at Lea Riverside, the sorting process begins at 15Hatfields. We have recycling bins around our venue which are clearly labelled by stream to ensure items are separated correctly.

The numbers behind recycling

In dry mixed recycling the most common contaminant is food waste. That’s why it’s so important to wash containers beforehand and ensure any cardboard contains no food waste. Recycling operatives at Lea Riverside find contamination to be more prevalent in household waste than commercial waste. This means that recycling rates can be as high as 99% for commercial clients but as low as 80% for local authority waste if a load is particularly contaminated.

The good news is that approximately 90% of materials delivered to the Lea Riverside facility are successfully recycled. Any nonrecyclable waste goes through the process of energy recovery to generate electricity. Thanks to a diverse range of recycling streams and the energy recovery programme, the Pulse team can achieve their zero to landfill pledge. When managing the waste from 15Hatfields over the course of 2022, Pulse saved 2.5m3 of materials going to landfill and prevented 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being generated.

To make their operations more sustainable, Bywaters installed 4,000 solar panels on the roof of the Lea Riverside facility. Generating nearly 700,000kW/h of electricity, the solar panels reduced carbon emissions by 241 tonnes in a year.

Our recycling recommendations

With that said, recycling capabilities vary across the UK, which is why it’s vital we familiarise ourselves with the materials that are accepted in our local area.

When it comes to improving recycling at work, waste management providers are a huge source of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that demystify the process and invite advice on how to improve the management of different streams.

Through recycling reports, Pulse have helped us to identify areas to prioritise in our efforts to minimise waste at our venue. Recycling and energy recovery certainly have a vital part to play in saving resources from landfill. However, sustainable consumption also requires us to ask ourselves whether the waste could have been prevented in the first place.

Since 15Hatfields opened in 2008, we have encouraged venues to follow our lead in eliminating single-use plastics at events. From biscuit barrels and granola jars to water bottles made from recycled glass, we are passionate advocates of the refillable. Discover our sustainable substitutes and get ahead of England’s upcoming ban on single-use plastics.