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EcoReFibre partners investigate wood sorting technology at TOMRA headquarters

A group of people watch a wood waste sorter
Around 40 participants of the European research project EcoReFibre visited TOMRA’s test centre to investigate TOMRA's wood sorting technology. TOMRA Recycling

TOMRA Recycling's headquarters served as the testing hub for the European research project EcoReFibre. After a one-day visit to TOMRA's partner, DIEFFENBACHER, the project members travelled to Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany, to witness TOMRA's waste wood sorting technology.

How can wood fibres at the end of their lifecycle be efficiently reprocessed to create new fiberboard? EcoReFibre ("Ecological solutions for recovery of secondary materials from post-consumer fibreboards"), a research project involving twenty partner organizations across seven countries, has been tackling this challenging question since its inception in May 2022, backed by funding from the European Union.

For their recent project meeting, around 40 participants gathered at TOMRA's facility in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany. Though TOMRA is not an official member of the EcoReFibre consortium, the company was invited by DIEFFENBACHER to conduct machine demonstrations for the EcoReFibre members.

"TOMRA was the first to introduce deep learning sorting technology for waste wood recycling to the market," said Jose Matas, director of the wood segment at TOMRA Recycling. We are pleased that with our innovations we can not only contribute to the positive results of the EcoReFibre project but also advance the use of high-quality recycled wood fibres."

Three different live demonstrations were given on two sorting systems. The first test focused on TOMRA's X-TRACT. Thanks to its X-ray transmission technology (XRT), X-TRACT recovers waste wood from complex mixed streams. The sorting system recognizes contaminants such as inert materials, metals, plastic, and glass based on atomic density, effectively separating them from the waste wood.

TOMRA experts conducted further tests on the AUTOSORT machine with its deep learning add-on GAINnext. Matas further explains, "While our X-TRACT effectively separates contaminants from waste wood, GAINnext identifies objects by their shape, size, and visual characteristics, enabling it to differentiate between various types of wood or wood composites. GAINnext is trained using thousands of photos by our experts, and it will continue to evolve with further training and future updates."

During the second EcoReFibre demonstration, the sorting system recovered unprocessed wood, referred to as wood A, from the mixed wood fraction collected by the X-TRACT. In the third and last step, GAINnext effectively sorted wood fibres from the processed wood B. The result is a clean fiberboard fraction with a purity with which the EcoReFibre project participants were very pleased. 

TOMRA was not the only company the EcoReFibre consortium visited during its research journey in Germany. On April 23, the members convened at DIEFFENBACHER's headquarters in Eppingen to witness demonstrations of the company's recycling machinery.

"In the first step, we shredded fiberboard into chip-sized pieces using our custom single-shaft shredder," explains Jean-Christophe Zimmermann, head of sales of DIEFFENBACHER's recycling business Unit. "These chips were then sized with the ClassiSizer to produce fines ideal for particleboard surface layers. The second part focused on fiberboard-to-fiberboard recycling, sorting waste wood into fines, chip-size, and oversize fractions with our ClassiScreen."

The chip-size material was set aside for TOMRA, while the fines were prepared for particleboard production.

"We have two intensive days behind us, which have enriched the EcoReFibre project with some important findings and taken it a decisive step forward," said Stergios Adamopoulos, professor of wood research and technology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, who leads the research consortium. "Many thanks to TOMRA and DIEFFENBACHER. The event was highly successful. We could meet all key performance indicators, which reassures us that we're on the right track with EcoReFibre." 

Company info

Otto-Hahn-StraBe 2-6
56218 Mülheim-Kärlich


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