What happens to our recycling?
Thiess Services provides waste and recycling services to residents of the Peninsula as part of a 10 year waste services contract with Gosford and Wyong Councils, which commenced on February 1, 2008.
About 280,000 wheelie bins, spread across 70,000 properties in each council area are emptied each week.
Each fortnight Thiess Services empties the 240 litre yellow lid recycling bin into a truck with a mechanical arm specially designed to collect recyclable materials.
Once the recycling collection run is finished, the truck heads to the PAR Recycling Services Materials Recovery Facility in Somersby where it passes over a weighbridge for accurate record keeping, before the recyclables are tipped onto the receiving area conveyor belt for processing.
The facility is approximately 1.5 hectares in size, and is capable of processing 25 tonnes of recyclables in an hour.
A combination of infrared scanners, metal detectors and colour sensors are used to sort the materials into individual "commodity streams", such as paper, steel and aluminium, before being baled and transported to reprocessing plants.
A variety of manufacturers are provided with the recycled products which could be turned into items including new bottles, containers, jars, cardboard boxes, sheet metal and stuffing for sleeping bags, carpet or furniture.
Whether they are reprocessed domestically or abroad, only a small proportion of goods are returned back to the Peninsula.
Most of the paper and cardboard collected on the Peninsula is sent to the Amcor Paper Mill in Botany.
A range of paper and cardboard materials are produced from the recovered paper fibre.
Paper and cardboard is often recycled into packaging and industrial paper, printing and writing paper, tissues and toilet paper, newsprint, egg cartons and kitty litter.
Aluminium and steel is sold into domestic markets, and ends up in the hands of Australian metal manufacturers.
Recycling aluminium cans into new cans uses only five per cent of the energy used in making cans from raw materials.
The recycled aluminium can be further treated to make a wide range of products such as aluminium foil, window and door frames and automotive engines.
Most of the glass is sent to a glass recycler in Sydney where the material is sorted, crushed and graded into glass "cullet" after which it is sold to manufacturers of new glass containers.
PAR Recycling is currently exploring crushed glass markets locally, where glass could be used as aggregate in drainage, pipe embedment and footpaths.
There are both local and international markets for recycled plastics, but there are fewer companies recycling plastic domestically.
A recent report by the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association concluded that "Of the 287,360 tonnes of plastics collected for recycling, 144,266 tonnes (50.2 per cent) was reprocessed in Australia and 143 094 tonnes (49.8 per cent) was exported for reprocessing.
"The majority of plastics that were reprocessed in Australia continue to be used locally to manufacture new products, mainly durable (non-packaging) products."
Much of the exported material is destined for China and Hong Kong for recycling.
Whether a product stays in Australia or is exported overseas is determined by the availability of local markets and processors of particular recycling materials, and the price of the commodity.