Separating glass from co-mingle

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The rise in co-mingle waste collection means that new ways of working are required in the waste management industry.

Many operators already acknowledge that co-mingle and its close cousin Dry Mix Recycling (DMR) are helping to boost the amount that commercial customers are recycling. It brings their landfill tax liabilities down, and can save the customer around a third on their waste collection bills. Co-mingle is a simple and elegant solution to the customer complaint that they have too many bins cluttering their premises – collect all dry and recyclable waste in a single container and sorting it at a materials recycling facility (MRF) where each waste type is bailed or containerised and sent for appropriate onward use.

The major problem with co-mingle is that glass tends to cross-contaminate cardboard and paper waste, making them far less efficient. To this end, some organisations won’t accept glass in their co-mingle collections as they say the problems it causes is costing too much money to address.

In fact, most materials recycling facilities won’t accept glass at all, despite the huge demand for quality recycled glass. In the facilities that do accept glass in co-mingle, hand sorting is time-consuming and comes with obvious dangers to the employees. And that’s why there has been a move toward automatic sorting of glass from co-mingle waste, and the results are beginning to bear fruit.

The recovery of cullet from waste glass is just a matter of setting up the MRF so that the operation can be done efficiently, some experts say. The historical refusal to take glass in co-mingle is now dated and should be reversed as long as the glass is removed from the other waste as early in the process as possible.

Screening glass through a trommel as soon as it arrives is the most effective way of achieving a good early sort, while specially designed secondary sorting machinery has also been developed that drops waste through a zig-zag column that separates larger glass that can eventually go to remelt once colour-sorted from smaller pieces that can be sent for aggregate.

Cross-contamination still remains a problem, no matter how well glass is separated at the initial stages. Paper can only stand 0.5% contamination with glass, so it’s clear that sorting quality has to increase sharply before glass and co-mingle can happily co-exist.

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