Sorting Materials - Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs)

Information and guidance on improving the quality of materials sorted at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and everything WRAP has to offer to MRF operators.

NEW Sampling and Testing Guidance, and flow diagram for Materials Facilities (MFs)

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 contain requirements for MFs to routinely sample and compositionally test their mixed material inputs by individual supplier and their main outputs by material stream e.g. news and pams, ordinary corrugated cardboard and mixed paper.

The Regulations require MF operators to report the average (or arithmetic mean) percentage composition for target material, non-target material and non-recyclable material to the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales every quarter.

In conjunction with a high level industry steering group, WRAP has produced good practice guidance and a flow chart regarding how the samples can be taken and tested.

An information summary sheet outlining the sampling process and the actual Regulations are also available.

Defra has produced a summary guidance document relating to what MF operators have to do to comply with the Regulations. There is also information available on Defra's waste policy website

Materials Recovery Facilities are increasingly important in providing quality raw materials to industry. In most cases, MRFs are designed to separate co-mingled recyclables into their individual material streams and prepare them for sale in the commodity markets.

A summary document, Recovering value from MRFs, presents an overview of of key aspects in the specification, operation and costs of MRFs. It draws together the results of three separate studies commissioned by WRAP:

  • A MRF comparison study, which looked at material sorting practices and technologies employed at across-section of MRFs in England, the USA and Europe;
  • MRF cost model and user guide - a costing tool for different materials sorting options; and
  • Contractual arrangements between local authorities and MRF operators, which reviewed and assessed existing contractual relationships between MRF operators and local authorities across the UK.

There are reports, guidance and case studies for municipal MRF operators including:

  • MRF output material quality thresholds: a report on materials quality standards, quality measurement techniques and their implementation by UK MRFs and materials reprocessors.
  • MRF quality assessment study: material quality assessment of municipal MRFs within the UK.
  • Quality management systems for municipal MRFs: practical guidance and templates to assist with the implementation of a QMS.
  • A study into the plastic packaging composition arriving at MRFs from established mixed plastics collections.

Case studies

A pioneering MRF in Milton Keynes now recovers added value from its residuals.

Exeter City Council MRF invests in hi-tech kit to maintain paper quality.

Bywaters (Leyton) Ltd MRF in East London takes on all-comers.

Re-Gen Ltd MRF in Northern Ireland reaps the benefits of its management systems.

Greenstar Environmental Ltd MRF sees a substantial investment pay off at a pioneering recycling facility in the West Midlands.

How the MRF at Ford in West Sussex has pioneered the use of material testing techniques to improve its feedstocks.

Reading's new MRF reaps outstanding results from a fully automated plastics sort.