Recyclers and mills sort out when to apply sorting technology.
European manufacturers are among the foremost at creating sorting technologies that can help produce clean secondary commodities.
With the technologies available, now recyclers and mills must figure out where and how to apply them, according to speakers during a session on the topic at the European Paper Recycling Conference, held in Barcelona in late September.
To some extent, the issue can be one of determining who bears the cost, remarked moderator Brian Taylor of the Recycling Today Media Group, Cleveland. “Whether deploying automation or increased staffing, sorting adds costs,” said Taylor. “How it is paid for and by who becomes the issue.”
Professor Samuel Schabel of the Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany helped conduct a study of 10 different sorting systems on behalf of the paper industry in that nation.
Among his conclusions was that a properly thought-out, funded and managed sorting system can actually produce grades of some recovered fiber from a commingled stream that are on a par with source-separated grades.
Good staffing also comes into play. “It’s important which people you have there,” said Schabel, noting that both experience and motivation among workers make for significant differences.
Schabel’s study also determined that screening out fines effectively is a critical step. “Fines screens . . . have a positive effect on the [remaining] production process,” he remarked.
The Centre Technique du Papier (CTP), Grenoble, France, has also conducted an in-depth study of recovered fiber quality and sorting, according to Gerard Galland of that organization.
Beyond studies, the CTP has also developed quality control sensors and procedures for the paper industry in France, with a specific eye on volatile compounds, moisture content, Flexo inks and unusable materials (contaminants), according to Galland.
The CTP has also designed a screen plate that can be used at paper mills to segregate the troublesome stickies and extrude them through a slot screen.
“To face the challenges of the future, both fundamental and applied research is required, and consequently all partners—universities, institutes and corporate R&D departments—have important roles to play,” Galland stated.
The European Paper Recycling Conference, hosted by the Recycling Today Media Group, took place Sept. 25-26 at the Hotel Tryp Apolo in Barcelona.