I have seen the famous video on the can of Coca Cola: “Follow me: the aluminum can” to review here, produced by Eco Emballage a few years ago, and I wanted to know more about the rest of our waste.
I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Romainville waste management center, which is both a waste reception center, a household waste transfer center, and a sorting center. A big thank you to Mr Aymeric Dulong, recycling and alternative transport engineer at Syctom (metropolitan household waste agency) for this visit!
Syctom, the leading European public player in household waste treatment, brings together 85 municipalities (including Paris) and treats the waste of 6 million inhabitants (almost 10% of the population).
Friday 10 am: arrival at the Romainville site to visit the sorting center.
Romainville is one of the first large capacity centers created in France.
Collections from 15 Île-de-France municipalities, including 9 arrondissements of Paris, or 1.4 million inhabitants. It includes a selective collection sorting center, fully modernized in 2015 and adapted to the extension of sorting instructions to all plastic packaging and small metal packaging, a transfer center for residual household waste and a recycling center.
There are several types of waste treated by Syctom:
1. Household waste
Leftover meals, hygiene products such as diapers, paper towels, paper handkerchiefs, broken blisters... At the Romainville site, this waste represents the bulk.
They tend to decrease thanks to the extension of sorting instructions and awareness raising but are not decreasing sufficiently.
This waste is sent for incineration to produce heat to heat 300,000 homes or electricity. A small portion of this waste, however, goes to landfill.
What about tomorrow: food collection will develop (energy transition law of 2025). Organic waste (leftover meals, etc.) but also paper towels will be collected separately and treated in composters because they are biodegradable (composting consists of a degradation of waste to produce compost) or methanisers (organic waste treatment process allowing the production of biogas (methane) and digestate to amend the soil).
2. Bulky waste
Large items such as mattresses, armchairs, beds are brought to the site and are 50% recycled. Syctom also subsidizes recycling projects.
The rest is incinerated for heat, energy or is buried.
This waste is rather on the rise in 2019.
What about tomorrow: creation of a resource center to collect, reuse and resell objects and clothes intended for disposal.
3. Mixed packaging and paper waste: clean and dry and recyclable.
Simplifying sorting procedures has had a positive impact on cardboard, plastic and aluminum, which are more easily collected and therefore sent to recycling channels.
Are still refused during sorting: small plastic objects less than 40 mm in diameter and / or 65 mm in height.
These objects which are part of our capsules, pumps and other pouring caps or even jars or bottles for cosmetics are refused on their final arrival on the plastic sorting belts and must be sorted at the end of the line by the teams.
Non-recyclable waste that is expensive to sort… For these objects, it is essential to innovate and, in the meantime, favor a circular economy by recovering these products to be able to reuse them.
The following are also refused: biobased plastics which today do not constitute a sufficiently important sector.
However, like all sorting centers that have a Foucault machine (separator using magnetic fields to attract aluminum), all aluminum packaging, even the smallest, will be perfectly recycled.
What about tomorrow: equip all sorting centers in France with Foucault current machines to be able to sort all aluminum packaging, even the smallest. This is the goal of the "metal project". Develop channels for biobased plastic and new materials to be able to recycle them.
The organization of recycling
The sorting center divides the packaging by size, shape, and material. Each mat arrives at the end in a large manual sorting room in which the agents refine the sorting of the machines so that the waste corresponds to the specifications of the recycling channels.
Then, the waste is compressed into large bales which will be sent mostly to France and the rest to Europe for recovery.
Glass has its own sorting, recycling and recovery channels and can be recycled indefinitely.
Even though the amount of waste is growing, technological advances allow us to recycle more and more.
Today we have the opportunity to give our waste a second life by doing a small action: sorting our waste.