Sunday, 3 March 2019

Recycling in Charente

Rather a different subject for this latest blog, but one which has become important to us all! The Charente department (county) has two household waste treatment facilities, one for refuse and one for recycled material. We thought a visit to the nearby recycling facility would be an educational experience, so we got ourselves included in one of the regular organised tours a few days back to see an example of how  France approaches this critical service.

The facility is run by Calitom, a quasi-governmental body. This site was developed on part of an old military base and it was completed in 2015, using the latest available technology in its design. A  high level of automation and mechanisation is involved; there seemed to be surprisingly few people working there! The building also incorporates very "green" principles,  innovative electricity generation and sedum (plant) roof coverings being two examples.

A model of the recycling complex, which processes about 40,000 tonnes of material every year. This does not include glass, which is collected separately everywhere in France. Large green plastic collection bins for glass, regularly emptied, are scattered throughout villages and towns; many large supermarkets have them too. There are about 1050 in the Charente and the public appear very committed to using them!
The principle used by Calitom is that the householder is given no responsibility for any kind of recycle sorting, beyond the decision whether the material is recyclable or not. In the UK, for example, the householder is required to sort and this appears to cause cross-contamination problems when the sorting is not done correctly.

Unsorted recycled material is collected from householders in free yellow (recyclable!) plastic bags every 2 weeks on a house-by-house basis. The lorries bring the bags to this enormous unloading area; they discharge them through the big roller shutter doors you can see at the back.

A rubber tracked mini-shovel (you can just see the bucket in the last photo) scoops the bags up and loads them into the hopper above. This is the last of the quieter part of the process and the guided tour passed us into the noisy conveyor hall. Visitors are provided with wi-fi type headphones which both mask the background din and allow one to hear the guide's commentary!

The first part of the material sort is by size, using a big revolving cylindrical sieve called a trommel, in which items drop out through varying size holes as it rotates; the smallest items drop out first, although some of these, like corks, cannot be recycled and have to be rejected.

Once sorted by the trommel, the material drops on to a variety of other conveyors.

This is an inclined vibrating conveyor referred to in the blue sign below. The photo had to be taken from an awkward angle; the belt is rising from left to right and the shot is taken from above. The grey tube is a handrail over which I was leaning!

This sign describes the process of a sloping vibrating conveyor, on which lighter flat plastic is carried towards the top before being diverted to other belts, while heavier plastic containers are shaken to the foot of the conveyor and diverted there.

This is a belt manned by people (!), who were manually separating plastic and paper "families" (see photo below). Plastic sheet is transferred by the sorters via chutes to other belts, leaving only cardboard and paper on this belt, as can be seen here.

The sign informs us about optical sorting of plastic and paper, once these "families" have been separated. Sensors detect the different compositions of clear and coloured polythene, paper, cardboard, and magazines, etc and they are separated by means of jets of air, which are used to blow selected items on to different belts for further sorting.

 In case you were wondering about metals, this sign explains that iron and steel detected on the conveyor are removed by magnet, while non-ferrous metals are isolated by a device called Foucault's current (eddy current), which is apparently a kind of magnetic field!

A top to bottom view of the facility showing its substantial height.

Sorting belts for newspapers and magazines. This was taken during a 15 minute workers' rest break! Photography of the workers themselves was, understandably, not allowed.

A row of bins for sundry items which shouldn't have been put in the "yellow bag" system, like batteries and electrical items for example, but which nevertheless have value and which would be recycled to appropriate places via these bins.

Bales of correctly recovered paper, plastic, etc awaiting removal to stacks in an outside yard, from where they are loaded on lorries for transport elsewhere. Each bale weighs about one tonne.

A display board showing the impressive variety of material which can be processed in this facility. As of this year, even aluminium foil and small jar tops of steel and aluminium can now be recycled, as you can see in the photo. We enjoyed the tour and benefitted from the visual experience and the commentary and explanations from the guide. If you can find a tour like this in your area, we suggest it would be worth going along!

My thanks to Nigel for the write up here, while the photos are mine.


See also my photodiarydps

and my bird blog

30 comments:

  1. Hi Diane - yes I can see it'd be really interesting. We have a right jumble of recycling here ... each council can make their decisions ... and I've been told on more than one occasion - no worries re mixing things. Now I have no car ... I have to use the bins - don't like it ... but again Eastbourne isn't organised ... for whatever reason.

    I guess the most important thing I should be doing ... is not to buy plastic of any sort ... but did you know tea-bags have plastic in them, as too gift-wrapping. However I read refill culture is back in vogue ... take your container to the counter ... removing the need for polystyrene packaging ...

    More importantly we need each and every person to be more accountable ... but thanks for this - enjoyed the tour ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hello Hilary and thanks for your commnent. Recycling here is excellent and after our 6 weeks in the UK at Christmas we appreciate what happens here even more. So many things in Wiltshire that were turned away that we recycle here with no problems. We were really upset at what was being classed as rubbish. I agree though every person needs to be accountable, but if the recyling is not working the way it should what then!!
      Hope you have a good week Diane

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  2. What an interesting post. I recycle as much as I can, and since we have had to step back from feeding ourselves from the farm we have had a lot more items to recycle. I always have a vague sense of guilt when I put another packet / tin / etc into the bin bags ready for emptying in to our local recycling bins, so I am relieved to know that France has these recycling centres.

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    1. Vera we were really impressed and discovered just how much they really do recycle here. Far more than what seems to be the case where we were in the UK over December an January. Hope all is well and take care Diane

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  3. We recycle whatever we possibly can here in Oregon. It looks like it was an interesting and informative tour.

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    1. Hi Pam, we thought that in general the recycling in America was hopeless, but that was a couple of years back, hopefully things have improved since then. Good for you and I hope that recycling improves throughout the world. Take care Diane

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  4. I sure like to see such an efficient looking recycling set up. It's not pushed enough here or made at all convenient.

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    1. Gaelyn, we always thought that the recycling here was pretty good, but we learnt a lot and discovered far more than we thought could be recycled. Between the garden compost, and the recycling company, our black bag with waste is very little. I wish the rest of the world would take heed! Keep well Diane

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  5. That's great to contribute to the local community.

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    1. Recycling here is good, if only some other countries would take note!! Thanks for the comment Diane

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  6. We have mixed stream recycling here, too. I run my recyclables through the dishwasher, but it's my understanding that some people don't even clean out their cans, jars and containers very well, so there are rodent problems there. We put our recyclables out in green or blue containers (as supplied by the towns) every Tuesday. Your tour was very nice, and Nigel did a great writeup to complement your photos!

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    1. Marjie I always wash my recyclables, I do not need nasty smells, rats and flies at the house while waiting for the two weekly collection! Nigel says thanks for the compliment. Hope you are well, take care Diane

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  7. thank you for your interesting and informative report. I learn something from your post.
    have a great day

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    1. Thanks Tanza for your comment. I wish the whole world would manage their recycling, it would make for a much beter world in every aspect!! Have a good day Diane

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  8. Looks like state of the art treatment facilities. I have often wondered how our recycling is handled.

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    1. Denise we were very impressed. France certainly recycles a lot more things than the UK, or certainly where we were in Wiltshire over Christmas. Thanks for the comment Diane

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  9. That's pretty sophisticated. I'd prefer weekly pickup, but here we don't have pickup at all. We take everything to a transfer station, which has huge bins. We have to separate everything. They accept glass but they don't recycle it; they crush it up before it goes on the landfill.

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    1. Two weekly pick ups are not a problem with recycling, but they are not so easy for rubbish but thankfully we have very little of the latter. We only separate glass and things like batteries, otherwise the recycling place does all the sorting. Thanks for the visit Diane

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  10. That is really interesting, Diane! We have weekly pick ups here for recycled goods, and we do not have to separate glass, paper, etc. But it certainly sounds like you have a have very efficient system in your area. It's something that needs to be done everywhere for sure.

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    1. Hi Pam we were very impressed, we only separate, glass, batteries and things like that otherwise they do all the sorting. It was a very interesting tour and almost everything in this house is recycled. Keep well Diane

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    1. Thanks very much hope you have a good week. Comment appreciated. Diane

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  12. I didnt know can go into recycling plant for a tour. Nice to know that and very informative

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    1. It was a very interesting visit and we learnt so much. Thanks for your comment, have a good day Diane

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  13. Un article très instructif. Bravo.

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  14. An interesting post and how you can use the same things in a different way

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    1. Thanks Agnes for your comment and your interest. Much appreciated. Diane

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  15. Replies
    1. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Have a good day. Diane

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