How do recycleables get sorted?

In my area, aluminum cans, glass containers and plastic bottles collected all in the same bin. How do they get sorted later? I can't imagine they get thrown together in one mix.


If it's a machine, what's the principle? Weight? Shake it and make it bounce? Whatever bounces higher is probably plastic? It can't be done by a magnet cause aluminum is not magnetic. Crush it all and sift? Shattered glass would get sifted. Does anyone know for real?

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    aluminum cans, glass containers and plastic bottles should be collected separately or even if collected in the same bin it is sorted again in terms of class/kind/type. for example,plastic bottles have the logo of recycle at the bottom or its side where number codes for a particular plastic is embossed, as i can remember the number codes is from 1 to 7 and these number are further guide for the final segregation of plastic bottles to be recycled into other plastic products.

    Source(s): experience and academic studies
  • 1 decade ago


    I was fortunate enough to work with some developmentally disabled adults as a job coach.

    Wouldn't you know the place of employ is a recycling center?

    All recyclables were sorted by hand. Plastics here, take off the lids. Newspapers there. Computer papers go over there, don't mix them with newspapers as computer paper is a higher grade of paper. Glass goes straight to the glass room in wheelbarrow type transporters. The glass is actually thrown, by hand, into a crusher. Of course each individual working in the center wore the appropriate safety equipment. Cans were smashed by a conveyor belt run machine and then spit into the giant trailer that gets pulled away later when full. Everything except glass and aluminum is baled. Each layer in the balers are compacted over and over again until a giant bale is formed and nothing falls out. Each bale is tied off with wire, by hand!

    There, this is what happens in our town. I'm sure bigger towns have more advance equipment.

    I hope this helps.

    Source(s): True life experience.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Where machines are used, the first step is usually magnetic sorting. Other materials are sorted by puffs of air that move different materials: paper is lightest and gets removed first. Stronger puffs move other materials off the belt. There can be optical sorting of the glass as well. However, this equipment is expensive and requires a huge through-put to make it economically feasible. Manual sorting is much more common.

  • tman
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    It is really sorted by hand. A magnet pulls out the metal and everything else goes through a conveyor where people separate it.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    well the other day i was watching "How Its Made" and what they do is first they put it into a machine that sorts the glass, plastic, tin, paper ect. then it sorts it by colors and shapes, then they all get washed and melted down into little balls. after that the little balls get sold to factories to make new products. and the cycle starts over again.

    Source(s): i watched "How Its Made" on the discovery channel
  • 5 years ago

    No there are recycling bins and there are trash bins like every county in the bay area.

  • 1 decade ago

    a magnet pulls the metals away. the rest is all done by sorting i think... i watch a history channel show about recycling a long time ago......l love that channel....

  • 1 decade ago

    Believe it or not, they get sorted by hand.

    It is an awful, smelly job and people are paid decently to do it.

    You have to wear all this protective clothing and a mask.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    best way is of course to sort them before dumping them.

    it is possible to sort the collected garbage and retrieve materials from it, but it is rather expensive, and therefore most of the garbage is not sorted, only materials that are expensive and easy to sort are retrieved.

  • 1 decade ago

    A machine can't do this, plainly...people do it. ^___^

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.