‘Future Perspectives in Recycling’ was the theme for the two-day event in Germany, which included technical demonstrations in Tomra Sorting Recycling’s test centre at its European headquarters in Koblenz.
Attendees had the opportunity to see two notable technical innovations: the Autosort Laser, which has made it possible to separate thin, thick or opaque glass from municipal solid waste (MSW), and an exclusive preview of Autosort Black, a machine capable of sorting black plastic packaging materials, which will be brought to market in early 2018.
Autosort Laser is a sensor-based sorting machine that uses laser technology. Visitors were shown how the machine’s near-infrared (NIR) technology ensures sorting stability and makes it possible to separate glass from transparent polymers, which are increasingly used in items such as syringes, lighters, and baby and cosmetic bottles.
The other notable technical innovation was the combined use of the Autosort and Autosort Black machines, which has made it possible to recover black polymers from packaging materials.
Whereas sensor-based sorting technology based on NIR detection is unable to detect or differentiate between black plastics, the Autosort Black can sort separate polymers such as black PE, black PP, black PET and styrene. In order to enable this process, the Autosort first recovers the black plastic materials, which are normally part of residue streams, to create a single black stream.
Another recycling machine, the Autosort Flake, was also demonstrated. By combining colour detection and enhanced material information to sort by colour and material at the same time, this has introduced high- precision sorting to a market which increasingly demands high-grade outputs with rPET plastics.
Autosort Flake, like Autosort Laser, deploys Tomra’s patented ‘flying beam’ technology combined with ‘fourline’ technology, which it claims has the highest resolution NIR (close to 1mm) available on the sorting market.
For those interested in metals sorting, demonstrations of the X-tract and Combisense machines illustrated how combined sensor-based technologies make the sorting and subsequent sale of zorba (shredded non-ferrous scrap metals) more profitable. By passing zorba through an X-ray transmission unit to separate aluminium from heavy metals, X-tract works with such high precision that it can achieve aluminium purities of 98-99%.
From the remaining heavy metals, Combisense then sorts out valuable fragments of copper, brass and grey metals.
In another test centre demonstration, Tomra explained its enhanced laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) sorting technology. By employing a laser that monitors the entire width of the belt, it has the advantage of eliminating the complex and costly need to separate materials into single lanes.
This enables the sorting and separation of different aluminium wrought alloys with high levels of efficiency, achieving sorting accuracies of 99% purity or greater, with high throughputs of three to seven tonnes per hour.
Tomra believes that to achieve sustainability aims, the circular economy will depend not only on ultra-efficient recycling machines, but also the businesses and people who produce and maintain them.
Peter Geisler, service director for recycling, gave a presentation called ‘Minimising downtimes, maximising profit – it’s all about the service’, in recognition of the importance of customer support.
This is the basis of Tomra Care, a package of services designed to ensure customers experience a tailored service that enables them to achieve maximum return on investment. It covers process consulting, system testing, financing, insurance, staff training and upgrades.
Tom Eng, senior vice-president and head of Tomra Sorting Solutions, Recycling, said: “By bringing together some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in recycling and waste management, this conference stimulated a fantastic exchange of ideas. Delegates gained insights into everything from high-level environmental ideals to nitty-gritty technical practicalities.
“We are delighted to have received so much positive feedback, with many participants telling us they found the event informative and inspirational. It’s exciting for all of us to be at the heart of an industry heading towards an inventive and environmentally important future.”