June 12-13, Machinex and the Carton Council of Canada invited Recycling Product News to Quebec. The first stop was a tour of the Machinex manufacturing facility and HQ in Plessisville, about 2 hours East of Montreal. Secondly, the Carton Council of Canada and Machinex hosted customers and press for a tour of Sani-Éco's MRF in Granby, Quebec where Machinex recently installed the company's latest Mach Hyspec optical sorting technology, along with a pair of SamurAI robotic sorting units for handling both cartons and PET/HDPE plastic.
Tightening global purity targets have the industry searching for new markets and high-tech equipment solutions
According to TOMRA, it is time to recycle smarter, and find ways to improve quality of recyclables by removing more impurities
The recycling industry is in the midst of a seismic market shift. The world's largest importer of recycled material, and arguably the world's dumping ground for material with impurities, China, has said "enough" as it grapples with domestic environmental issues.
This has companies around the world struggling to adapt to a new recycling industry paradigm. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) approximately 31 percent of U.S. scrap exports, valued at more than $5.6 billion, were shipped to mainland China in 2017. China also accounted for 51 percent of the world's plastics scrap imports and historically has been the largest importer of North America's recyclables.
Rising to the challenge
Some importers in China are exploring ways to adapt to the new purity standards and restrictions.
"Pelletizing is now a hot topic in China, since pellets are still allowed for import," comments Boxiao Qin, sales manager, China, for TOMRA Sorting, Inc. "Additionally, many of the larger companies are searching for new opportunities outside of China, with some starting recycling facilities in the United States."
While this is an option for larger players, Qin sees the new market extremely challenging for smaller companies in China to survive.
Rather than searching for alternative solutions, Carlos Manchado Atienza, regional director Americas for TOMRA, is challenging the industry and recycling operations to look for ways to improve the quality of recyclables by removing more impurities.
"We must recycle smarter," he says. "If we focus on the environmental perspective, it makes no sense to send heavily contaminated recyclables around the world. Today, the technology exists to deliver values for food grades in PET recycling of less than 50 parts per million, practically reaching the quality of virgin material, and we can do the same with many other resources."
Looking for Options
Historically, China and other countries accepted material with purity levels ranging from 90 to 95 percent or, conversely, impurity levels as high as 10 percent. Recycling companies equipped their facilities with circuits that included sensor-based, optical, laser and other automated machines combined with manual pickers as the last line of defence to remove impurities and meet these standards.
This dramatic purity standard shift to 99 percent or greater by the market's largest importer has recycling and scrap facilities in many countries looking for other outlets for their second-life products.
However, finding a single-country replacement for China, which had imported a majority of the world's plastics scrap, is not practical. If a recycling facility chooses not to increase purity levels of its finished product, then the material will have to be split between multiple countries, increasing sales costs.
At the same time, the glut of recycled material on the market is placing severe downward pressure on commodity prices. Some material prices have already dropped sharply as the market adjusts to these new restrictions. Adding insult to misery, companies should expect shipping costs to increase, as ships previously sent directly to China were quickly returned to the originating country, loaded with consumer goods for sale. Margin challenges aside, operations deciding to seek out alternative markets rather than upgrading the facility do have options.
Potential lies near China in developing Southeast Asia countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Also, India and South America are alternatives to receive the thousands-of-tons-per-year of recyclables left stranded by new China restrictions.
Alternatively, large markets such as North America can look to more long-term solutions by further developing and enhancing the internal market for paper, plastics, ferrous and nonferrous recycled material. While requiring substantial investment to develop new and more powerful market models to properly manage the market's waste resources, it would deliver a competitive boost to the market and advance sustainability efforts.
For companies weighing the balance between increasing product purity and finding new markets, serious consideration must be given to the investment in new equipment, installation downtime and ongoing operating costs.
"At the end of the day in the nonferrous markets, the decision comes down to cost-per-pound to process the material compared to the price they can get for the product," says TOMRA's Eric Thurston.
While Manchado Atienza agrees with Thurston, he offers another consideration the industry must factor into the equation as it moves forward in today's market environment."Companies can seek out alternative markets for their products, but we should always work to improve quality to avoid encountering a ban similar to China's from another market," he says.
Adding pickers or upgrading the circuit
An alternative to investing in equipment is to slow down the belt and add manual pickers to the final sorting stage for removing impurities. With a low initial investment and little to no plant downtime for circuit upgrades, it may appear to be an appealing alternative to equipment. However, this solution results in significant increases in long-term operating costs. M
id-size facilities processing approximately 10 tph of recycled material will, on average, employ two pickers, whereas large operations will use five to eight pickers for processing 45 to 90 tph of material.
"Depending on the location, U.S. recycling facilities typically figure a picker's salary from $35,000 to $50,000 per year when determining costs," explains Thurston.
If adding overhead to pull impurities from the final product doesn't make financial sense for the operation, then upgrading the circuit either through constructing a new facility or adding new technologies to the recycling configuration is another option. Building a new facility, however, can take months and cost millions of dollars.
The more economical route is to work with experts focused on sorting technologies and offering global experience to investigate what equipment upgrades are necessary to meet more stringent standards. This option can often be done at a fraction of the time and cost of building new. Depending on the type, age and condition of the equipment, recycling operations can expect to invest $180,000 to $360,000 in equipment to increase purity levels required to meet more stringent regulations like National Sword.
"Companies need to be aware of the cost for both the value-added and non-value-added equipment for new technology integration," offers Thurston. "Look for value-added equipment that can be easily integrated into the existing circuit. Otherwise, the cost for conveyors and other non-value-added additions can add up quickly."
There are potential side benefits to adding new technology to the circuit. This approach can reduce the number of pickers required to remove impurities, giving operations options for more efficient workforce utilization to reduce overhead and long-term operating costs, resulting in a short ROI for the new equipment.
However, not all technology upgrades are equal, and recycling operations must investigate closely into which works the best to meet established purity goals. Some upgrades require complete circuit add-ons, which demand more time and cost, additional non-value added equipment, and more space. Other technologies can be added onto existing equipment in the circuit, saving space and installation costs.In addition to the cost of new technology, equipment lead-time and plant downtime should also be factored into the investment equation. With recycling operations focused on circuit upgrades to meet tightening standards, equipment lead-times have lengthened.
"The time from when the equipment is ordered to when it arrives can range from 12 to 20 weeks, and the plant builder will require an additional one to two weeks for installation," says Thurston.
Amy Guan, sales engineer for TOMRA, recommends that a facility work closely with technology experts to make sure all the upgrade goals are met. "The goal is to upgrade the equipment in order to meet these stringent standards, and technology experts and plant designers will have the expertise to make this a reality," she says. "The last thing a facility wants to do is make equipment upgrades that don't meet goals and have the cost associated with a shipment rejected for not meeting purity standards."
Sorting equipment manufacturers are introducing a host of new products to help recycling operations stay ahead of the purity curve. Suppliers have recently introduced air systems and laser detectors, to supplement NIR technology that does not sort all impurities from waste paper and cardboard. As a result, many equipment manufacturers and plant designers are upgrading their test facilities, so customers can ensure new technology added to their circuit will remove impurities and attain the desired purity from their feed material.
The main impurities left behind by existing sorting circuits that manual pickers must remove are black items, such as plastics and rubber, as well as glass. Recycling facilities must closely examine the main impurities and determine the right technology that will work best without significantly increasing processing costs.
"Technology is the crucial investment to achieve all new regulations, as well as future requirements, so recycling operations must choose a partner focused on continuing product developments to respond to evolving market needs," advises Manchado Atienza.
Whether adding new technology, more stages with existing technology or increasing the number of pickers to upgrade purity, Thurston reminds recycling and scrap facility operators to consider upgrading the entire circuit.
"Now is the time to look at all components to see if upgrades are needed to make the process more efficient," he recommends. "Consult with your equipment supplier to analyze all circuit components including shredders, magnets, screens, conveyors, optical sorters, electromagnetic sensors, etc. to make sure all are working well together efficiently."
Because in the end, improving the final product that facilities offer customers is not only about advancing the recycling industry, it's also about making money.
This article was provided by TOMRA Sorting Recycling, and was originally published in the May/June 2018 edition of Recycling Product News, Volume 26, Number 4.
More from Paper Recycling
Last month, in an effort to crack down on illegal shipments, the Indonesian government imposed new regulations on imports of recovered paper. The rules included a 0.5% contamination limit and 100% pre-shipment inspections, including separating containers into bales. The government has now announced that it will instead use the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) specifications for recovered paper which set a standard of 1-2% for prohibitives and 3-4% for outhrows. It is also using the specifications to define its use of the word "homogenous" in describing the condition of bales.
After a two-month construction and installation period, Area Recycling launched its new state of the art material recovery system this week. The facility expansion and equipment upgrade represents a $3.5 million dollar business investment for PDC, Area Recycling's parent company, based out of Illinois.
Moore & Associates, a paper recycling consulting firm based in Atlanta, recently announced the availability of the 2019 China Recovered Paper Market & Policy Advisory Report. From Hong Kong-based NPC Partners (a premier and innovative consultancy firm for the pulp & paper industry), the new report presents a view from inside China, including insights and analysis on China's new recovered paper policies, markets and global impacts.
ZWS Waste Solutions, LLS (ZWS) of Rochester, Massachusetts, has opened one of the most advanced recycling facilities in the world.
The City of Lethbridge, Alberta held the grand opening of their new single-stream material recovery facility on May 8. According to Machinex, their sorting system at the facility, commissioned in mid-April, will allow the City to process residential recycling materials generated by a new blue cart program that is currently being set up.
Machinex attended the official ceremony this week marking the major upgrade of the Sani-Éco material recovery facility located in Granby, Province of Quebec, Canada. The owners of the recycling management company reiterated their trust in Machinex, which provided them their sorting center more than 18 years ago. This modernization will allow an increase of their current sorting capacity in addition to bringing a direct improvement to the quality of the fibers produced.
Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) has launched the Max-AI AQC-C, a solution that is comprised of Max-AI VIS (for Visual Identification System) and at least one collaborative robot (CoBot). CoBots are designed to work safely alongside people which allows the AQC-C to be quickly and easily placed into existing Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). BHS launched the original Max-AI AQC (Autonomous Quality Control) at WasteExpo in 2017. At this year's show, our next generation AQC will be on display along with the AQC-C.
RePower South (RPS) has begun processing material at the company's new recycling and recovery facility in Berkeley County, South Carolina. The recycling system, provided by Eugene, Oregon-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), is one of the most advanced in the world. The highly automated system is capable of processing more than 50-tons-per-hour (tph) of mixed waste to recover recyclables and produce a fuel feedstock.
Machinex recently carried out a full design review of the MACH Hyspec optical sorter. As part of this process, the decision was made to totally revamp the overall appearance of the unit.
Niagara Recycling was incorporated in 1978 as a non-profit social enterprise company. Norm Kraft started with the company in 1989, became CEO in 1993, and has never looked back.
Only a few years ago the standards for recycled paper and board in China were not high. As a massive importer, China is now known to reject entire container loads based upon one inferior bale. Responding to this reality, Valorizaciones Vilar Guillén SL (V V G) set out to streamline their entire business to deliver against tight specifications, earning respect and repeat business as a result.
Between summer 2017 and 2018, Dem-Con Materials Recovery in Shakopee, Minnesota retrofitted their single-stream MRF with three new MSS CIRRUS optical sorters for fiber from CP Group. The units increase recovery, improve product quality and reduce sorter headcount on the fiber QC. A fourth MSS CIRRUS sensor is currently in production and will install this summer.
MSS, Inc., the optical sorting division of CP Group, has received a patent for their PrecisionFlow eject hood for optical sorters.
Canada Fibers awarded contracts to design, build and operate two technologically advanced recycling facilities
Canada Fibers Limited (CFL) has been awarded two contracts to design, build and operate advanced single-stream post-consumer Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Peel, Ontario. The Company is constructing an 80 thousand square foot greenfield facility in Winnipeg and is retrofitting the Region of Peel's existing MRF. Both projects involve advancements to recovery technologies in response to increasingly rigorous quality standards from industries utilizing post-consumer recyclable materials.
Machinex and Canada Fibers partnership to result in two of the most technologically advanced single-stream facilities in North America
Toronto-based Canada Fibers Ltd. (CFL) is building two single-stream recycling facilities in 2019 that will include the most advanced, high-tech fibre and plastics sorting and recovery systems in Canada. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, a completely new 30-tonnes-per-hour facility (approximately 80,000 square feet) is currently under construction and scheduled to open in the fall. In the Region of Peel, Ontario, the existing Peel Integrated Waste Management Facility MRF, owned by the Region, will be retrofitted for 31.5-tonnes-per-hour capacity, with the updated facility (approximately 85,000 square feet) scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020.
The good news for recovered paper exporters as the calendar flipped to another new year was China's issuance of almost six million short tons worth of import licenses in December. The first batch of permits issued by China's Ministry of the Environment, covering about 5.5 million tons, was more than double the amount of recovered paper allowed by China's first batch a year earlier.
Balcones Resources celebrated its 25th anniversary in business this month, growing from a small Austin-based paper recycler to a comprehensive environmental services company with facilities in Austin, Dallas and Little Rock. Balcones marked the milestone with a reception featuring a presentation of $25,000 in total donations to five Austin-area environmental organizations: EcoRise, Hill Country Conservancy, Keep Austin Beautiful, Shoal Creek Conservancy and Waller Creek Conservancy.
TOMRA Sorting Recycling has announced two additions to their North America product support team. Sean Hyacinth has been added as a field service engineer for TOMRA optical sorting equipment, while Kevin Javier Montalvo assumes the newly created position of customer project manager, recycling. Both team members will work directly with TOMRA dealers and customers to strengthen equipment service and project management throughout North America.
ZenRobotics Ltd. has appointed Wolfgang Schiller as the company's new CEO, effective immediately. Prior to ZenRobotics, Mr. Schiller was the Vice President Electronics Industry at KUKA AG, a leading supplier of intelligent automation solutions. According to ZenRobotics, as CEO, Schiller will be responsible for further developing ZenRobotics' business and accelerating the uptake of intelligent robots in waste management.
In the spring of 2018, Plessisville, Quebec-based Machinex introduced its new SamurAI sorting robot, which, according to the manufacturer, has since generated a lot of industry interest. Nearly six months after its launch, the response of the market has been very positive and nine robots have been sold to date. The first two SamurAI in Canada have just been installed in Quebec while six more robots will be installed by next year in Canadian sorting centers. Moreover, the company says they continue to have regular requests from customers who are greatly interested in this cutting-edge technology.
Greif, Inc., a global provider of industrial packaging products and services, announced December 20 that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Caraustar Industries, Inc., the leading recycled paperboard and packaging solutions company, from an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital, in a cash transaction valued at $1.8 billion. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of calendar year 2019, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory clearances.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) recently announced the release of its seventh annual Recycling Industry Yearbook, providing the most up-to-date information and statistics about the U.S. recycling industry and global scrap marketplace. With a greater spotlight on the industry in the wake of rising trade protectionism around the globe, the publication provides the most comprehensive analysis of where the industry stands based on the most current data compared to previous years. It will also serves as a baseline for years to come based on the new global market realities.
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CP Group, the San Diego-based recycling solutions provider and equipment manufacturer, unveiled their Virtual MRF over a year ago. Now for the first time, it will be on display internationally at Residuos Expo 2018 in Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico.
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This past summer, Van Dyk Recycling Solutions sponsored and hosted a webinar titled "MRFs in Crisis! Where do we go from here?" During the webinar, Van Dyk's sales manager and process Engineer, Adam Lovewell, along with colleague Mark Neitzey, focused on the topic of how recycling businesses have been struggling to deal with China's changes in import policy. According to Lovewell and Neitzey, the so-called "China crisis" has exposed serious issues throughout the recycling industry and "we have hit a critical point where owners and operators need to take a hard look at their equipment's ability to handle changes in the stream."
Recycling Today Media Group's 2018 Paper & Recycling Conference North America, the 19th edition, opened officially Wednesday, October 17 in Chicago, following the third annual day-long MRF Operations Forum dedicated to best practices at material recovery facilities. Jim Keefe, RT's Publisher opened the 2018 MRF Operations Forum Tuesday morning by welcoming approximately 100 attendees and introducing the first session: "Dynamic MRF Operations". The title is an appropriate one -- reflecting the overall theme for the day: with changing incoming recycling streams combined with changing global end markets, MRF operations need to be dynamic - adapting to changes and changing the way they operate - to maintain profitability.
Epax Systems, a specialist in waste management with more than 30 years of experience, recently developed a new method to control industrial compactors and balers called Axxess controls. According to the company, over the last decade, safety and security have become concerns for multi-use property managers who are seeking to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration's requirements for controlling balers and compactors in their facilities. Since 2017, clients of Epax Systems, inc. have increasingly communicated the need to improve on their traditional key switch systems, which requires employees to use an on/off key switch to control their compactor or cardboard baler.
CP Group has introduced the CP Anti-Wrap Screen, the California-based recycling equipment manufacturer's second new screen of 2018. The new CP Anti-Wrap Screen accurately separates newsprint and large fiber from material streams by using high-amplitude elliptical discs to agitate material.
TOMRA Sorting Recycling has published a new e-book providing advice for businesses who sort paper and cardboard for deinking and recycling. The new online publication addresses the intensifying commercial and regulatory pressures for higher recovery rates of deinked pulp and the fact that meeting these demands will require new technical solutions. The e-book introduces an exceptionally effective new solution.
National Recovery Technologies (NRT) has integrated the company's NRT SpydIR® optical sorter with Max-AI® technology, creating a revolutionary new sorter with detection abilities unmatched in today's optical sorter market, according to the company. NRT's SpydIR technology uses near infrared light (NIR) detection to identify plastics, paper, wood and other materials by material type. Max-AI technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify materials using a camera and neural network algorithm (NN). The NRT SpydIR with Max-AI optical sorter employs both detection technologies to create an optical sorter that is able to combine the information from each technology to deliver a unique sorting capability.
According to Austria-based Binder+Co, due to China's recently imposed scrap import restrictions, concerns are growing in Europe and in North America about how to cope with plastic waste. The industry is sceptical about reuse, because the required quality of secondary raw material is, for the most part, not ensured, and the use of plastic waste as alternate fuel in incinerators makes too little use of plastic as a valuable secondary raw material.
Canada Fibers Ltd. (CFL) has announced that it has filed a statement of claim with the Superior Court of Ontario asserting damages arising from breach of contract by the City of Hamilton. CFL's decision to file the claim follows over 12 months of negotiations with Hamilton staff that culminated in a recommendation by the City's staff proposing measures to resolve the breach and end the dispute. Unfortunately, Hamilton City Council has rejected the compromise recommended by staff and made it necessary for CFL to seek a remedy in the courts.
Norway's largest waste management company first to implement BHS Max-AI VIS to monitor outbound product quality
Norsk Gjenvinning (NG), Norways largest waste management company, has selected Oregon-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) to supply NG's new state of the art paper recycling system in Oslo. Operational in Q1 2019, the system will process 20 tonnes per hour (tph) and run three shifts to process approximately 120,000 tonnes annually. Noteworthy to this process is the inclusion of Max-AI VIS (Visual Identification System) units to monitor the quality of outbound paper.
International Baler Corp. (IBC) has begun production of their new ATX Auto-Tie baler series, a high-volume, "European style" baler for MRF and MSW applications. IBC is the first manufacturer to offer this class of machine in the USA. Built entirely in their plant in Jacksonville, Florida, IBC offers US customers a domestic alternative to the high cost and extended lead time of overseas shipping, parts, and service.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), has released the following statement in response to China's announcement that it will impose a retaliatory tariff on the import of all scrap commodities from the U.S.: "ISRI is already hearing from contacts in China that the announcement has caused consternation among Chinese consumers of U.S. scrap commodities. Although these tariffs will not be levied on imports from other countries, it is our understanding that other regions may not be able to fulfill all of China's demand. This is in line with other reports that the trade war has had an impact on the Chinese economy across many sectors.