TOMRA Recycling helps Green Recycling achieve its goal of establishing the UK’s first picker-less C&I MRF

Essex-based waste management and recycling solutions provider, Green Recycling, has set its sights on becoming the UK’s first picker-less C&I MRF and has teamed up with TOMRA to help achieve this goal.

Green Recycling installed a latest edition TOMRA AUTOSORT® unit at its C&I plant in November 2021 to recover fibre from the end of its process line. The AUTOSORT unit combines near infrared (NIR) and visual spectrometers (VIS) to accurately and quickly recognise and separate different materials according to their material type and colour, extracting high-purity high-value end fractions.

Jamie Smith, Operations Director at Green Recycling, comments: “Due to the location of our plant, we have really struggled with recruiting labour historically. We were heavily reliant on foreign nationals who, understandably, wanted to return to their homelands when COVID-19 struck and then could not easily return because of Brexit regulations. The pandemic made us realise that we needed to change the business and move away from our reliance on manual picking. We have always had a keen interest in automation and artificial intelligence so over the past year we have invested heavily in automation to enhance our screening, sizing and separation operations, including ballistic separators, automated magnets and eddy current separators.

“We saw the TOMRA AUTOSORT unit as a key enabler in moving closer towards a picker-less plant model. We previously had a team of four manual pickers sorting out the paper and cardboard. Since installing the AUTOSORT, we have been able to redeploy these employees into new, more technically-skilled and appealing roles across the plant. 

“Rarely does equipment work from the moment you press the start button but the installation of the AUTOSORT unit was seamless and as soon as it was plugged in, we doubled our paper and cardboard production from and c.50 tonnes to 100 tonnes per week. This extra capacity came at exactly the right time as some of our infeed material suppliers almost doubled their volumes of C&I waste which we simply wouldn’t have been able to cope with had we still been reliant on manual picking.”

The team at Green Recycling has been so impressed with the AUTOSORT technology that they have recently installed four additional AUTOSORT units which are programmed to automatically recover plastic film, cardboard, wood, bottles and other rigid plastics. The original AUTOSORT unit has switched to recover mixed office paper. This additional sorting equipment has taken Green Recycling one step closer to having the UK’s first picker-less C&I MRF.

Jamie adds: “With the new TOMRA equipment in place, even if we were to have several staff members off at the same time, our plant can continue running. AUTOSORT will enable us to future-proof our operations and ensure we are able to adapt to any future changes in C&I waste arisings.”  

Brian Gist, Head of TOMRA UK, comments: “The past two years have changed views on how MRF operators staff processing plants and one of the legacies of COVID will be how people work. C&I waste volumes are skyrocketing, but operators are still facing staff shortages as there is a real lack of appetite from UK residents for taking on dirty and repetitive manual labour such as waste picking. Even though COVID restrictions have now been fully lifted, there is no continuous arrival of new labour entering the UK due to Brexit.

“Over the past 18 months, TOMRA Recycling has experienced a surge in enquiries from C&I plant operators who are looking to investigate automation as a means of future-proofing their operations. These operators are recognising that greater automation will negate the risks associated with labour shortages and will help them to cope with varying waste tonnages, higher C&I recovery and recycling targets and any future changes in waste material composition.

“With the right sorting equipment in place, it is easy to make simple programme adjustments to equipment to allow for any short or longer-term changes in the volume or composition of infeed material. This ability to adapt sorting operations at the flick of a switch has been embraced by many of our customers over the past two years. We predict even more investment in automation and plant upgrades in the C&I sector over the coming months and years as operators seek to embrace the commercial and operational benefits that the latest automated sorting technologies offer.”


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  • Leicester , LE19 1WH