Understanding the Importance of Mass Balances for MRFs and Recycling Facilities

Understanding the Importance of Mass Balances for MRFs and Recycling Facilities

Recycling is crucial to maintain a sustainable environment and minimise the impact of waste. Recycling facilities (including Material Recovery Facilities) help in segregating and processing waste into usable materials. Recycling facilities are operations often consisting of a complex arrangement of sorting equipment that need to track the inflow and outflow of materials, recover recyclables from the waste stream, and send the remaining waste for disposal (either to landfills or incineration). The process of tracking the inflow, processing, and outflow of materials is known as “Mass Balances.” In this blog post, we will discuss what mass balances are, and why they are important for MRFs and recycling facilities.

Understanding the Importance of Mass Balances for MRFs and Recycling Facilities

  1. Understanding Mass Balances

Mass balances are an accurate accounting system used to track the flow of materials. It involves weighing, recording and also estimating the mass of incoming waste, outgoing products, and residuals at each processing step. Mass Balances help to identify where the losses or gains of materials occur in a waste recovery or recycling process. It helps to determine the efficiency of the sorting process, and identify problems in the workflows that result in lower yields and higher disposal costs (through the loss of recyclable materials in the residue output).


  1. Benefits of Implementing Mass Balances

Mass balances tracking systems for a recycling facility such as the SortFlow platform can help operators to ensure that they are processing waste effectively, minimise losses of recoverable materials, and quantify sorting process performance. By employing mass balances, MRFs can identify how much waste material is generated, how much of that waste can be recycled, and how efficient its recovery process is.

Moreover, mass balances can help to maintain an up-to-date inventory of incoming waste materials and outgoing products which helps with the optimal routing of materials. It can also be used to produce forecasts and when using a dedicated waste mass balance application like SortFlow Process, it also enables building comprehensive financial models for the facilities that run those soring processes.

Understanding the Importance of Mass Balances for MRFs and Recycling Facilities


  1. The Importance of Mass Balances for Recycling Facilities

The implementation of mass balances in recycling facilities is vital as it helps to maintain economic and environmental sustainability. A recycling plant that doesn’t implement mass balances could suffer from material loss and ultimately impact the quality of recyclable material produced. Implementing mass balances help recycling facilities improve their operations by getting a better understanding of the material flow and how to minimise its environmental impact (through maximising material recovery and reducing waste disposal).


  1. Challenges with Mass Balances

One of the significant challenges of mass balances is collecting accurate data. The weighing of incoming and outgoing material is relatively simple, but other factors linked with the characterisation of the waste streams can make it difficult to determine weights and performance accurately.

Moreover, converting the data collected into actionable information that can be used to optimise operations can be a challenge. This is where the SortFlow solutions come into play as they can help MRFs and recycling facilities manage the data collection (including capturing data directly from the plant) and process analysis through our process modelling and digital twin applications.


  1. Best Practices for Implementing Mass Balances

Recycling facilities can implement best practices to minimise the errors during data collection and analysis. The facility should identify the critical components of the recycling process that have the most significant impact on outputs quality and on the quantity of recyclables “lost” to residue.

Use of technology can help to ensure that accurate mass balance reporting occurs. Most plants would benefit from investing in AI vision and sensor-based technology and potentially dependable scales capable of providing accurate information as manual sampling presents certain limitations and is ultimately labour-intensive and costly.


In conclusion, Mass Balances are crucial for tracking the inflow, processing, and outflow of materials in MRFs and recycling facilities. The use of accurate data collection and analysis methods is vital for optimal use of resources and sustainability. Recycling facilities that implement mass balances have a better understanding of the material flow and are better equipped to optimize operations and make informed decisions. As recycling facilities search for solutions to maximise materials recovered and minimise material loss, mass balances stand out as one of the most significant tools available along with digital twin technology.

Luc Mallinger


SortFlow Process is the first dedicated application to build mass balance models for both new or existing MRFs and recycling facilities.

SortFlow AI Mapper is the first dedicated digital twin application for MRFs and recycling plants. It enables capturing live data from the plant and combine it with our mass balance models to improve process analysis and monitoring.

SortFlow IO is an innovative waste audit application built in collaboration with the new state-of-the-art MRF in Coventry operated by Sherbourne Recycling. It enables recording waste samples efficiently.

For more information or to book a demo, reach us at: contact@sortflow.com