When Calgary-based ECCO Recycling decided to grow its business, it did so by taking on the processing of single stream materials - mixed plastics, paper, OCC, metals, and other materials - from both residential and commercial sources. What made that effort more challenging than most, however, was the decision to add their single-stream processing capability within their existing, high production C&D MRF footprint.
Thanks to a combination of good planning, open communication, skilled craftsmen and solid equipment performance, what seemed at first impossible became suddenly doable. As a result, ECCO Recycling has augmented its 100,000 tons per year of C&D material with a solid 16,000 tons of single stream material and is eyeing substantial future growth.
Roots in Landfills
Having recently. celebrated its 25th year in business, ECCO Recycling's origins belie what it is today. According to Bryan McCulloch, ECCO's manager of corporate development, little of what the company does today can be traced back to its roots.
"The partners who started the company worked for a major environmental engineering firm," he said. "At one point, the City of Calgary announced the closure of a landfill located directly alongside our current location. So the partners proposed handling the closure of the old site, then starting up and managing a new Class-3 landfill. That was the start of ECCO Recycling and because the main material coming into the new site was wood - encouraged by a greatly reduced tipping fee - that became our first recycling operation."
As the stream of wood grew, ECCO began hand-separating some of the better mixed loads and grinding it on the landfill face, initially finding a market for the ground material as animal bedding. "That grew rapidly," said McCulloch. "Soon afterward, we purchased a colourizing machine and a bagger and started selling coloured mulch for big-box store sales - it really grew quickly."
ECCO's next transition - from landfill-based wood recycler to C&D MRF operator - was the result of a contract with a major cement manufacturer to initiate a waste-to-energy program to supply fuel for their kiln. That all changed very quickly however, said McCulloch. "Shortly after we started generating the fuel product, the cement manufacturer decided to improve on the design of its kiln and locate the recycling system alongside it - a move that was projected to take years. So we reacted to that move by switching our fuel plant to a MRF that was functional, but somewhat limited in scope."
With their MRF operational, ECCO began to see a dramatic increase in the volumes of plastics and old corrugated cardboard (OCC) coming into its facility, which was well equipped for wood and other C&D material - but not equipped to deal with residential stream material in large quantities. It became obvious that a redesign of the MRF was needed.
"Not only did we need to add some capabilities to our existing system, we needed to do so within the confines of an already-crowded facility," said McCulloch. "Sparta Manufacturing had been helpful and had good ideas in the past when we were looking to make some system upgrades. So we reached out to them and began discussions to design a single-stream system alongside (but completely separate from) our C&D line.
"We explained the need to get it done quickly, to do so with minimal disruptions to the operation and, most importantly, to make it fit in our existing footprint. Despite all those demands - or maybe because of the challenges - they took the job."