Video: Recycling plant in action
TWEED Shire Council invited My Daily News for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Northern Rivers Materials Recovery Facility at Chinderah.
The plant, which separates the materials people put into their recycling bins, was built after the previous facility at Stotts Creek struggled under increasing pressure to keep up with demand.
Environmental education officer Sascha Piotrkowski said the new facility, which will celebrate its first birthday in March, was a vast improvement.
"The old facility at Stotts Creek needed upgrading," Ms Piotrkowski said.
"So it was more worthwhile to build a new facility."
The new facility in Chinderah uses a range of technologies to separate recyclable materials.
Manager Chris Morris knows every detail about the process.
"Plastic, alloy and tin go through a magnet which retrieves all your tin from the product," Mr Morris said.
"(It) then goes through an optic sorter to get your remaining paper from your aluminium and your plastic."
The process that divides the plastic and the aluminium is particularly novel.
"The Eddy current is an electronic magnet designed to repel aluminium," Mr Morris said.
"So it actually throws the aluminium so that the plastic all then drops into a separate chute."
Ms Piotrkowski said the new facility was a significant improvement on the Stotts Creek plant.
"It's working really well. It processes recycling at a much faster rate.
"It's a lot more efficient and it was able to recover 95% of recyclables."
It is so fast, Mr Morris said, the trucks bringing the recyclable materials cannot keep up with the processing plant.
The facility even processes recyclables for places as far away as Byron Bay and Beaudesert.
"We receive around 500 tonnes a week," he said.
"The plant's that efficient that we run out of product almost every day."
Ms Piotrkowski said her role focused on running education programs for school groups and community groups.
"After we run the programs the kids become the educators back at home," she said.
"I've had quite a few parents tell me that the kids have been telling them what goes in each bin.
"(Recycling) is becoming more of a normal thing."
At the end of the process, the plant has produced bales of paper, cardboard, metal, aluminium and plastic as well as piles of glass that are later crushed.
Then, twice a week, the separated products are trucked off to other holding yards and later sold as resources.