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RECYCLING - The 9 most common mistakes

Thu, 3 May 2012

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Sometimes people wonder what happens to the  rubbish we so carefully separate for a greener planet.  Deco - the consumers rights' association, visited Tratolixo, a treatment system plant that manages the residues for the areas of Cascais, Oeiras, Sintra, and Mafra and followed the whole route of the rubbish, from the time it goes into the trucks to the processing of organic waste into fertilizer.

When rubbish is not separated, the following happens:

Unsorted waste goes to a different reception centre where it is placed on conveyor belts that take it to the mechanical treatment where 'triage' is started.  After screening, the operators manually separate paper/cardboard, plastic and metal. The paper and cardboard is packed up and sent to the recyclers.  The remaining material goes through a magnetic separator to catch the small metallic material. All the metallic material sorted is pressed and goes for recycling. A mechanical treatment separates the organic waste for biological treatment into a container where it will mature for 70 days.

To avoid this expensive and labour intensive procedure our help is essential if all this is to work efficiently, but sometimes we don't know whether or not we are doing the correct thing when we recycle.  For this reason Afpop has created a fact sheet, which contains the information from Deco about the 9 most common mistakes we make when recycling. 


9 most common mistakes

With the help of Valorsul, a company responsible for the treatment and recovery of waste from 19 municipalities, we have identified the major errors in separating rubbish for recycling.


1.    Not separating what can be recycled

Some people don't believe that recycling actually takes place because they have seen a collection truck mixing all the different types of waste. The fact is that these collection vehicles are often sectioned internally so the rubbish does not re-mix.  The materials which have been separated are then sent for recycling.


2.    Putting ECAL packaging (cartons for liquid foods, often known as TetraPack) in with cardboard.

It has been established for a while now that its correct destination is the “embalão” (‘packaging’ container), the ‘ecoponto’ for packaging with more than one material.


3.    Washing packages before placing them in the “ecoponto”

You should drain all the contents of the pack, but should not waste water washing rubbish.


4.    Not recycling some plastic packaging

Recycling mixed plastics is already possible and you can put yogurt, butter, oil or olive oil packs or bottles in the yellow ecoponto. The only non-recyclable packs are those containing toxic or dangerous products, such as bleach, oven cleaning products, drain unblocking products and paint. These packages cannot be recycled yet.


5.    Depositing paper packaging in “embalão” just because they are packaging

This is a very common mistake, but the cardboard and paper packaging should be put in “papelão” (blue ecoponto).


6.    Putting dirty paper in the cardboard container

Paper and cardboard are, of all the waste items, those with greatest likelihood of being reused.  Placing contaminated paper in the ecoponto, such as used napkins or tissues, makes it more difficult to recover all the other paper that it may contact.


7.    Neglecting to flatten all materials  

Not flattening materials such as plastics, boxes and packaging will quickly fill the containers, leaving less room for waste to be deposited by other people and makes the collection system more inefficient.


8.    Depositing china and ceramics in the green ecoponto

The recycling of glass is accomplished by a melting process.  Glass and ceramics have very different melting points and have to be treated separately.  One dish can ruin a whole lot of glass.

Don't forget to remove the lids or corks from glass bottles.


9.    Using and sealing bags of recycling rubbish

Sorting lines have equipment which pierce the bags so that contents fall out onto the sorting line.  A manual check also ensures that all items are out of the bags.  It is better to put rubbish to be recycled directly in the ecoponto without bags.



This information has been compiled by afpop, the largest Association for foreign residents in Portugal, based on information supplied by Deco – the consumer rights' association.  Fuller information is available to Members.  afpop can be contacted at their office in Portimão: Urb Quinta do Morais, Poço Fojo Lote 6, Loja c, Apartado 728, 8501-917 Portimão.  Tel: 00351 282 458 509.  E-mail: info@afpop.com.  Web site: www.afpop.com