Key Considerations for Designing an Efficient MRF / Recycling Process (Part 1)

Key Considerations for Designing an Efficient MRF / Recycling Process (Part 1)

Key Considerations for Designing an Efficient MRF / Recycling Process (Part 1)

Designing an effective Material Recovery Facility (MRF) or recycling process is a complex task that requires a combination of technological expertise, process arrangement skills, market awareness and creativity. In this blog post, we will provide you with some valuable tips to consider during the design phase, whether you are on the design side or operate the process.


  1. Understand your infeed

To optimise your MRF or recycling process, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the materials you will be processing. This step is often overlooked, but digging deeper and establishing different scenarios can help you create a versatile and future-proof design. Instead of relying solely on average material composition, try to establish “extreme” material composition scenarios. This approach allows us to understand the potential impact of variability in input composition on the process. By testing these “extreme” scenarios in process models, we can identify and address process bottlenecks that may arise in specific instances.


Size analysis

Conducting a size breakdown analysis of the material, if available, can provide valuable insights for equipment selection and performance evaluation. Screen performance, in particular, can be a bit unpredictable without a good understanding of the size breakdown. Therefore, evaluating the size distribution can enhance the accuracy of mass balance work and lead to better, more versatile process design.


Consumer habits

Considering the evolving consumer habits and packaging trends is essential for designing a process that can adapt to changing demands over its operational lifespan. Anticipating changes in consumer behavior, such as the decline of physical newspapers and the rise of e-commerce, can help you future-proof your MRF or recycling process.


  1. Prepare your material

The infeed of a process has a significant impact on its overall performance. Cutting corners at this stage can lead to subpar results. Therefore, it is crucial to invest in robust and high-quality equipment.

In a specific scenario where a shredder is the optimal method for material preparation, it is important to acknowledge that it may be one of the most expensive components of the entire process. However, it is crucial to consider that the cost of underperforming processes can far exceed this investment in the long run.


Material condition

It is essential to determine whether the material arrives in bags, loose form, or both. Bagged material necessitates the use of a bag opener to ensure efficient processing and minimise the risks associated with contaminants. Failing to address this step can significantly impact the overall process’s efficiency and safety. Pre-sort pickers should not have to manually tear open bags as they should focus on removing large or hazardous materials that could potentially disrupt the process.


Secondary material preparation

Generating consistent size fractions is crucial for efficient processing. Screening equipment plays a key role in achieving this consistency. Ensure that the size range of the material aligns with the requirements of optical sorters for example. Excessive fines can hinder the performance and capacity of optical sorters, so it is important to maintain an optimal size distribution.


  1. Regulate your flow

Preparing the material and regulating its flow are separate considerations. While a shredder may be suitable for material preparation, it doesn’t guarantee the right amount of material reaching the processing line. To ensure consistent flow, consider using dosing drums or alternative flow regulation equipment. Ideally, implementing a solution that enables both material storage and flow regulation will further enhance process efficiency as it can relieve pressure off the loading plant operator.


Designing a successful MRF or recycling process requires careful consideration of various factors. By understanding your infeed, preparing the material appropriately, and regulating the flow, you can maximise process efficiency and achieve high-performance results. Keep these tips in mind during the design phase to create a versatile and future-proof process that meets the demands of your operation.


SortFlow Process is the industry’s first mass balance modelling application. It helps to streamline and improve the design of MRF and recycling processes. For more information about SortFlow and our applications, you can visit our website at or contact us at


Luc Mallinger, SortFlow Limited, January 2024