Q & A: The benefits of investing in wire processing equipment
When it comes to recycling scrap cables and wires, business owners have two main options: sell the cables as-is for a fraction of the price, or invest in equipment that will enhance the overall quality of the end product and boost profits. Wire strippers and choppers play a vital role in the recovery of these valuable materials by removing the plastic or rubber insulation from the wires, leaving behind a pure copper core that can be sold for double to triple the price of unprocessed wires.
Like all equipment, there are countless factors to take into account before investing in a wire stripper and chopper. I caught up with Beau Janzen, manager of Copper Recovery, to discuss some of the most notable benefits of these machines, the types of operations that can benefit from them, and how his company's modular cable recycling systems help recyclers of all sizes increase their processing capacity.
Slone Fox: One of the main benefits of stripping and granulating wires is a more profitable, higher-quality end product. How significant is the difference in return between selling processed wire versus insulated wire, and what are some key differences?
Beau Janzen: The difference is an absolute game changer for any business currently selling ICW (insulated copper wire). For starters, if you are boxing or baling material, you have to make your best guess as to the average yield of the package. Over the years, we've seen even very organized and sophisticated companies that have been in business for generations estimating incorrectly time and time again. One must consider that, ultimately, the material will need to be processed in cable recycling machinery to be recycled into something new. For every step along the path to the final processor, somebody is making money that could have remained in the business.
SF: How long can recyclers expect it to take to get a return from investing in these machines?
BJ: Payback is heavily dependent on purchase price and volume processed. Every one of our clients is different. Some generate material as a by-product of their normal operations, such as demolition companies or cable manufacturers. Demolition companies can often pay for the machine a couple times over with one large project as we've seen multiple times. A more typical situation is the scrapyard that has a combination of B2B and the general public delivering material directly to them. The most important question on everybody's mind is "how much more can I make?" by processing material in-house. Being processors ourselves for over two decades, as well as manufacturers of the machinery, we can get very specific if a potential client advises how much they pay for a given material and how much they could sell it for. This conversation is a revelation for most, and is frequently followed by "how soon can we get it?"
SF: What are the requirements for the materials that can be processed by the granulators in terms of things such as cable size, type, and contamination?
BJ: With our base unit, Phoenix, material is hand-fed onto a conveyor belt directly into the granulator. The infeed material must fit into the opening which is 12 x 18 inches and 22 inches diagonally. We advise our clients to cut the material into soccer ball size bundles. No steel or jelly wire is allowed. In cases where there is light oil or grease contamination, they can introduce an absorbent powder into the system to neutralize the effects which can be problematic on the gravity separator as material must be dry and free flowing to separate. All other configurations utilize Wagner brand pre-shredders. These shredders are specifically configured for cable recycling and can shred light steel as you may encounter with armored MC/BX cables.
All configurations with shredders include an overbelt magnetic separator. All configurations include a high-powered magnetic drum separator to guarantee ferrous-free copper chops as standard. The shredder doesn't care about cable size, as an automatic pusher is included that goes back and forth, feeding material into the rotor to be cut. Material size is only limited by the size of the cutting chamber, which is 40 x 41 inches on the smaller WS22 shredder for Phoenix Direct, our most economical model that includes a shredder. The WS30, which is included with Phoenix XD and Phoenix XD Plus, has a 41- x 53-inch cutting chamber.
SF: At what volume does it start to make sense for recyclers to invest in these machines, and what size of operations benefit from these machines the most?
BJ: For Phoenix, we recommend a minimum of 30,000 pounds per month of ICW. Clients in the past who started with hand feeding ultimately upgraded to a configuration which includes a shredder once they grow their business to reach over 60,000 pounds per month. Our cable recycling equipment is suitable for any size recycler handling ICW. We have numerous mom-and-pop clients as well as Fortune 500 companies who have multiple machines at multiple locations.
SF: What are the main benefits of having a modular system?
BJ: Modular cable recycling systems or wire choppers create an opportunity for smaller recyclers to increase their processing capacity and grow their business over time without losing their initial investment. Offering equipment with a lower barrier to entry in a niche market like cable recycling evens the playing field by allowing smaller companies to be competitive from the start. One can get into the market by just having a hand-fed Phoenix, and at any time in the future, add modules for increased capacity. The system is plug and play, and every base unit has all the functionality built in from the start to accommodate any additional equipment.