A recent WRAP survey of reprocessors highlighted significant dissatisfaction with the quality of material from UK MRFs. More than 60% of respondents considered that only ‘some’ or ‘hardly any’ output from MRFs met their quality specification.
Gavin Barnes, recycling projects manager at Tong Peal Engineering, says it is important for skip hire companies and waste transfer station operators to adopt new processes and update their MRFs to reduce contamination.
“MRFs need to be designed specifically to meet individual organisations’ outputs,” he says. “Quality of output is vital so, if you know you are processing plastics, paper or wood, you can select a specialist solution to sort and screen accurately. The best way to get the best quality waste is to look at your MRF and ensure you are working with the correct system for the job in hand.”
So, how do you specify the right MRF system for your customers?
Identify your key output
Think about what you will be processing; it will have associated costs and values that fluctuate hugely on the open market. It is important to identify your key material but also to ensure your MRF has the flexibility to process others. Bear in mind that sorting paper and plastics can be achieved at a fairly low cost, where as more specialist products such as glass and PET/HDPE require a more complicated process.
Manual or automated?
Using manual labour to sort waste streams reduces the amount of specialist machinery required. But this method ultimately relies on quality of workers for quality of output. Quality control may vary and, with an increasing need for quality sorting, you will need to invest in training your staff.
The alternative system would include specialist machinery. This is an investment that allows for longer term efficiencies. The system could include trommels, optical sorters, overband magnets, eddy current separators, ballistic separators and bag openers.
All this equipment is aimed at improving the quality of your output material while reducing the amount of manual labour required. But remember that each automated process needs to be monitored, which means that the manual element can never be totally removed.
Identify space restrictions
A MRF will often be built in an existing building or site, meaning the kit has to fit within set parameters. Think about what you are sorting and how the waste stream will run. Think about pick-up, drop off and storage areas as well as vehicle access, traffic and pedestrian routes. Consider periods of increased capacity.
Future-proof your investment by allowing extra space to install new equipment if and when required. Remember that you may also need to seek planning permission before starting work.
Think about operating logistics
A MRF is a busy site and vehicle movement is key to how they operate. Ensure you allow enough room for movement and a clear flow through the system. This will prevent hold-ups and increase productivity.
MRFs in practice
Family-run skip hire company Sid Dennis and Sons made the decision to invest in a full static handling line from Tong Peal Engineering. Based in Skegness, Lincolnshire, the specialist waste disposal company collects and recycles up to 250 tonnes of waste material daily, providing a professional service to organisations nationwide.
Dennis says: “From the supply and collection of heavy-duty skips, to the authorised scrapping and disposal of waste materials, we provide a full waste service to organisations and individuals. We needed a way to separate bulk waste materials into separate saleable components, in a simple, effective and cost-efficient process.”
The company bought a sorting line featuring a customised infeed hopper, barrel trommel, air knife and picking table. This allowed it to screen skip waste, separating bulk materials into separate products such as glass, plastic, hardcore, fines and metals.
“By effectively separating skip bulk, we can reduce landfill waste by 100%,” says Dennis. “As we process more than 20 tonnes an hour, this avoids charges of £10,000 a day in landfill tax. The separated products are sold for recycling and reuse, making the whole process incredibly cost-effective and profitable.”