The Right Machines Solve Solid Waste Problems With Ease
Recycling is big business, and having the right size of machine for the specific operation is essential to the recycler’s mission of solving someone else’s waste management problems
The right machines solve solid waste management problems more effectively and lead the way for further success for recycling companies. A good example of this is Butler-MacDonald Inc. of Indianapolis, IN. This company is prepared to recycle 60 million lb./yr. of plastic by providing state-of-the-art material-separation methods for commingled plastic and metal feedstreams.
Large 75-In. Infeed Opening on a slow-speed shredder, used for plastic tires, and metal recycling.
"When we went into business in 1982 we considered not only the problems we would be dealing with at the time, but also the expected flow of problems several years down the road," points out Scott Johnson, president. This meant spending considerable time researching the market, principally through trade magazines, and visiting sites with promising manufacturers. "When considering a machine, we look at the volume it can handle in a given period of time, the cross-sectional thickness of material, overall weight of the parts to be shredded, and the physical dimensions of the parts to be shredded. We strive to avoid the need for further processing, even though we get materials from several hundred diverse sources."
Products received range from plastic one-time-use cameras to software and even commingled plastic and metal panels. Sources range from AT&T, Bell West, and Dow Plastics to Ford Motor, Indiana Bell, Microsoft, and Xerox. Total flow is about 30 million lb./yr. This diversity requires a wide range of processes, including size reduction, shredding, magnetic separation, eddy-current separation, granulation, aspiration, screening, density separation, optical separation, and a host of other measures to handle the materials economically and keep nonrecyclable volumes down in the 4-5% ranges. "We specify that the 4-5% nonrecyclables have to go to an incinerator, where they’re turned into steam heat. We’re charged a fee of 4.5 cents per pound and our goal is to keep fees down and production up," Johnson states. That’s why Butler-MacDonald’s equipment lineup includes a 200-hp, 80-in. hydraulic shredder; a 550-hp, 22-ton ring mill; multiple 48-in. granulators; various trommel screens; rinse dryers; filter presses; gravity tables; and many other pieces of equipment. The goal is to get the best device for the particular process. Citing shredders, he notes, "We have to think of what physically is the largest size we can economically handle and how much weight we are going to get. There’s a dramatic price difference as you get wider shredders. After we get to the point of spec’ing, we then look in detail at how the machine is constructed. Will there be ease of maintenance, long-term wearability? When buying a large shredder, knowledge of the company and the way to configure the cutters makes a huge difference on what output actually is."
Johnson says they had narrowed their choice to two companies in 1990. The winner was SSI Shredding Systems in faraway Wilsonville, OR. "We chose their machines primarily because they had good knowledge of how to spec the cutters on the shaft. Those cutters are essential in helping us keep our own waste in the 4-5% range." During the plant visit before purchase, Butler-MacDonald ran products through those shredders and monitored performance. "We also looked at technical support: whether we could get along with the company’s personnel. If you’re going to run an operation 24 hours a day, five to seven days a week, you have to count on technical support. Those machines cost a quarter million dollars apiece, and you can’t afford to keep a spare." Johnson notes that today’s buyer has a significant research advantage over buyers of just a decade ago. "There’s the Internet. Sure, a small company can build a big presence on the Web, but a site visit still is part of the process. But thanks to this technology, it doesn’t take as long to make the right decision."
In turn, his company uses the Internet to attract customers. "We’re at www.butlermacdonald.com, and customers—both national and international—are finding us. It sure beats cold calling."
Harking back to the older days, concludes Johnson, "It was a lot of work, but field research has been money well spent."
"In order to get the right machine for a specific operation, both the user and the supplier have to have a clear understanding of the application required," observes David Wilson, technical sales specialist for SSI Shredding Systems. "The factors to be reviewed when buying a shredder, for example, include whether it will be fed with a conveyor or a dumper and what types of materials are to be processed. Both parties have to know the size, shape, material properties, form, etc. of items to be processed, as well as required capacity."
Wilson also agrees that support resources from the supplier are vital. "In-house engineering services, manufacturing capability, hydraulic and electrical expertise, and application experience are important when a client selects a system. It is especially important when the system is integrated with material-handling equipment or other machinery within the facility. The best solution for the user is to select the supplier that provides the best equipment to meet the client’s processing requirements in conjunction with the right support and engineering resources."
Because shredders are used for so many different products, it’s essential that the user consider his current and future processing goals. "Everything is designed as a system to meet this goal," Wilson states.
"New applications always bring new challenges. Recycling today includes processing just about everything. Clients want to process a wider range of materials at higher rates and at less cost. Aluminum, paper, electronic scrap, plastics, automotive materials, textiles, film, etc.—you name it and someone wants to recycle it." This means users sometimes need several days’ training with new systems, which suppliers such as SSI provide. "If the product is uniform and consistent, the learning curve is generally very short. If the client is processing a wide range of materials, then learning and fine tuning the system as they go along is part of the total process."
Wilson reports that the best testimonials come from users who have had previous experience with other equipment in the same application. "They do not need to be convinced that buying quality and the right-size equipment is the best investment. For example, if an application is borderline between which size shredder is required, an experienced processor will purchase the larger system without question. First-time processors are usually more concerned with the price than production, and this focus can cost them more in the long run."
Wilson also is a believer in using the Internet. SSI Shredding Systems’ site, www.ssiworld.com, has helped draw customers from around the world. And it is a world market, as evident from a letter Wilson recently received….
Another Happy Customer
"Our purpose-built Tyre Shredding System supplied by [SSI Shredding] has elevated our company to a new level of efficiency and purpose," writes Paul Buick, executive director for disposal operations at DME Tyres Ltd. based in Staffordshire, England.
"At the core of the company’s success is the ability to examine and separate remouldable/retreadable casings," the letter continues. "However, DME has recognised the importance of exploring new markets, new methods of dealing with scrap tyres and identifying recycling opportunities to enhance its corporate image and secure its position as one of the leading tyre collection and recycling companies in the UK.
"The success of the SSI Tyre Shredder installation can be accredited to the design and build quality of the machine (and ancillaries), an efficient system of working, having committed and conscientious operators, and creating an effective supplier/customer relationship.
"A unique partnership exists between DME and SSI. As we pursue our recycling objectives, it is crucial that an investment is made in the right equipment with the right supplier. DME has the confidence in SSI to provide the right system for our requirements. SSI has proven that it is capable of manufacturing robust shredding equipment with an inherent standard of high quality that has contributed to recent successes in volume reduction and overall operational efficiency."
Over on the MSW side, Ed Kramer, sales engineer for American Pulverizer Company in St. Louis, MO, comments, "We have found that when equipment is purchased for a new facility, it is in most instances specified through an engineering company and purchased by the installing contractor on a turnkey-system basis. If the owners purchase equipment, it is usually for a specific application that has developed in their wastestream or for replacement equipment within their overall system."
Kramer points out that in either case, the concern should be whether or not equipment exists to accomplish the specific task. If so, what are the investment, operating, and maintenance costs; who else is using the equipment; and how well does the supplier support the sale with warranties and after-purchase support in engineering, parts, and service?
"How reliable is the equipment? What is the longevity of wear items? How accessible is it for normal maintenance and how much time is needed for preventative maintenance measures?" he adds. Those basic considerations then make it possible for the potential user to rate the equipment he’s looking at.
When asked about the role the Internet plays in today’s equipment research, Kramer responds, "By contacting our Web site, www.ampulverizer.com, and filling out the user information form, American Pulverizer Company can recommend the right equipment for any application."
As the Judge Sees It
One user of an American Pulverizer baler is Ashley County Recycling Facility in southeast Arkansas, where 40% of the household wastestream of 25,000 citizens is turned into money. The rest is trucked to the landfill, compacted in place, and covered with dirt. County Judge Larry Kinnaird, who oversees all county property, including the recycling facility, explains, "We recycle aluminum; tin; three or four different types of plastic jugs, bottles, etc.; and cardboard, which we sell to commercial companies."
The Ashley County judge notes that the recycling center is making a good profit on aluminum and cardboard. "Plastics and tin are cheap, with tin running about 3 cents a pound. But we are making money with anything we keep out of the landfill. A major customer is the Georgia Pacific power company. We’re selling them 7,000 tons of fuel pellets a year."
The county, which has 30 employees busy processing and packing the wastestream, also provides recycling and landfill services for adjoining Cleveland County. "That county is about half the size of Ashley, so we’re getting about one-third of our recyclable materials from them, and they’re paying us to take their waste."
Don’t Forget the References
While technology has helped speed up the decision-making process, old-fashioned values still should be considered, reminds Rob Glass, sales and marketing manager for Shred-Tech in Cambridge, ON. "A company’s reputation within the industry is always important to investigate. Ask for references from past customers who have had similar requirements to your own. Also, investigate the company’s internal workings. Ask questions about service coverage and parts availability.
"The firm’s ability to provide after-sales support is often overlooked when selecting a shredder and, as with any equipment, it is critical to ensuring you receive value for your purchasing dollar. Analyzing a company’s financial stability and longevity within the shredding industry will ensure that the company is available to service your needs well into the future."
Glass also agrees that the Internet is an excellent tool for gathering this type of information. "For example, our Web site, www.shred-tech.com, provides an easy-to-use ‘Solutions Guide’ that can direct the user toward the equipment required for specific shredding applications. The site also has pages dedicated to aftermarket parts and service, new-product development, and information on available reconditioned shredding equipment."
Glass also recommends that buyers select a shredder showing signs of recent design improvements. "Shredding technology has made substantial advancements since the early 1990s. Improved design technologies and manufacturing processes, along with the use of super grade materials, have all contributed to a dramatic jump in shredder performance and durability. Make sure you are not being offered outdated technology. Ask for a list of recent shredder upgrades and design improvements. Inquire into the shredder manufacturer’s investment in product research and development. If a shredder looks like it was designed before World War II, it probably was.
"Once you have narrowed your shredder manufacturer down to two or three companies, it is time to review and compare quotations and specifications. Shredders come in many different sizes and configurations. Experienced shredding companies, however, will offer similar cutting chamber sizes, horsepower recommendations, and method-of-drive recommendations [hydraulic vs. electric] when given the same application parameters. For this reason, it becomes important to review the details of the equipment specification.
"For example, shredders of similar size and horsepower can produce significantly different knife tip forces and shredder shaft speeds. The higher knife tip force determines what the shredder is capable of shredding. Shaft speed will give you a guide to how much material the shredder can process in a given period of time." Another success key is to correctly anticipate future needs. Glass points out, "High-torque, low-speed shear shredders have also been utilized to reduce electronic scrap, including mainframe computers, photocopiers, and telephone switching devices. With the new millennium now underway, huge volumes of electronic scrap are anticipated for recycling."
Glass concludes, "Reduction technology is certainly an example of how design improvements in one field are quickly adapted and then absorbed by other nonrelated fields. Although the effect of these changes might, on the surface, appear confusing to the consumer, the end result is the availability of more economical, reliable, and durable shredders."
Balers Go High-Tech
"Today’s users want balers that offer higher capacity as well as the ability to have a computer on-board that will track all of the activities of the processing plant," notes Richard Harris, director of sales for Sierra International Machinery in Dallas, TX. "Users want an industrial computer in the baler’s motor control center that has a self-diagnostic program. If a problem arises, it’s identified as hydraulic, electrical, or mechanical. The user gets a written message as to the nature of the problem, including a photo of the area involved, with the problem item circled in yellow."
While balers capable of processing 25 tph of old corrugated containers (OCC) can cost $500,000, the built-in efficiencies make it possible to amortize the cost rather quickly. "Another important element is the baler’s ability to track production of each grade of material. So if the operation is baling OCC and switches to ONP [old newspapers], then to high-grade paper, they can see exactly how many tons per hour they’re producing of each grade and determine the operating costs per ton—including electrical, labor, even baling wire expense—automatically."
At the same time, these machines have a life of 15-25 years—unless even more dramatic technological developments should make it economical to retire today’s high-tech baler sooner than expected.
Harris then gave an example of a company in Columbus, OH, that replaced two ram balers and an existing horizontal baler with a single model MacPresse Mac111AS. "It reduced their labor by three to four full-time people, reduced electrical use, increased uptime, and increased production capacity in tons per hour. They’re doing over 25 tph with OCC, 45-50 tph with ONP, and 44-55 tph with high-grade paper. Their goal was to amortize the cost in under two years, and they’re ahead of schedule."
Today’s MSW balers also solve problems at the landfills. A growing sector is baling commercial and municipal solid waste to reduce transportation and landfill costs. "They’re also realizing incredible space savings that add incredible years to the life of a site because the baler makes possible greater densities than what you get with a loose fill that is compacted by a Cat. Balers also help the community’s MSW operation to be much more efficient and to eliminate wind control problems, odors, and vermin infestation."
Harris concludes, "I look at the numbers, and the economic returns with today’s MSW balers run in the millions, but aesthetics plays a bigger role than economics."
"Thrifty" Is Still the Operative Word
Bob Plichta, general sales manager for Logemann Brothers in Milwaukee, WI, agrees that MSW operators want to be good neighbors, but recycling centers, especially those not tax-supported, require economics be part of the package. "Our company got its start in 1882 when two brothers started building shears and balers with the motto ‘Wealth From Waste.’ We have over 300 multipurpose baling systems in place, and the common feature we hear from our users is that they selected our first-, second-, and now third-generation system because all are designed to give many years of reliable, trouble-free, uninterrupted service."
Plichta notes, for example, that the third-generation design capacity allows centers to be operated in one or two shifts, whereas older systems required three shifts to accommodate the huge volume of waste to be processed. Going to swing shifts means maintenance, monitored by a phone modem link, is handled between shifts—and there’s still time each day to handle impending repairs without impacting production. "Energy savings also have been a welcomed realization through this third-generation system, and many recyclers are saving upwards of $20,000 a year in electrical expenses alone after they install the new, higher-operating pressure system."
Another advantage is that today’s recycling equipment is quieter than its predecessors. That’s because Logemann has the baler’s impressive smooth-flow hydraulics in a sound-deadening room with a built-in air/heat exchange. The resulting noise reduction not only meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, but also makes working conditions more pleasant for the operators.
Plichta gives the example of a high-production recycling center. "The entire operation at the recycling center is controlled and monitored, particularly at the crucial points: trailer dump areas, conveyor flow, sorting areas, the baler’s compacting chamber, and bale loading stations. By means of closed-circuit television, which is located in a control room overlooking the trailer dumpers, and above the initial sorting area where the trailer loads are dumped, the control-room operator handles the dumping of all trailers with a full view of the sorting area on multiple screens." This monitoring ensures that workers follow hardhat and eye-protection rules.
Plichta notes that a typical recycling center may handle 4,000 tons/mo. of baled, recyclable fibers that can be brokered to the mills, while another 2,000 tons/mo. of nonrecyclable waste is landfilled. "The garbage bales are removed in 40-foot trailers to a landfill by a private contract hauler."
Meanwhile, in Antigo
The Macpresse solid waste baler produces MSW bales weighing 3,500-4,000 lb.
Economics is also especially important for smaller communities, such as Antigo in north central Wisconsin, which has a population of 8,000 and a landfill where space is critical because of lakes and water table challenges. Everything is baled, then either sold or landfilled. Because the machine can compress a ton of waste into a 30- x 40- x 50-in. bale, the life of the landfill is greatly enhanced. "Baled waste is just a quarter the volume of dumped waste," explains Brian Grabowsky, scale operator.
This community also aggressively recycles. Grabowsky reports that Antigo’s recycling center handles 5,000 lb. of recyclables a day in late winter, as well as upward of 10,000 lb. of waste. "We do everything, including plastics, metals, three grades of glass, and paper. Paper volume doesn’t warrant sorting, so we sell a bale with all grades of paper in it. There are just three of us at the site, so it’s more economical to sell an all-purpose paper bale.
"We have a city vehicle that picks up recyclables and a city garbage truck that handles all of the garbage," he points out. Privately delivered materials are also accepted. The city’s baler is a Logemann 345A, which it bought in 1983. "We’ve pretty much left the machine as it was when we bought it. For our size of operation, the technology is sufficient. Besides, downtime still is basically nil
Author's Bio: Journalist Joseph Lynn Tilton specializes in land and building issues.