When engineers design a highway or road that passes through mountains or steep hills—especially one likely to carry heavy traffic loads—they strive hard to create surfaces that do not rise or fall at too sharp of a grade. The interstate highway standard, for instance, calls for a 6 percent maximum grade.
Commodity traders and recyclers who collect and process secondary commodities may at times wish a similar 6 percent maximum was in place when it comes to pricing volatility, especially when prices are trending downward.
Discerning the angle of the slope for nonferrous scrap pricing in the past 12 months or so may depend in part on the viewpoint of the trader, recycler or scrap consumer involved. Using London Metal Exchange (LME) prime or alloy material prices as a yardstick, however, shows a clear trend of a steady downward drift.
From July 2011 to July 2012, LME cash settlement copper pricing fell from more than $9,600 per metric ton (as a July 2011 monthly average) to $7,590. This 21 percent drop in 12 months can certainly be considered drastic, especially for someone still holding on to (unhedged) material purchased in July 2011.
Likewise, in this same span, the LME aluminum alloy price has fallen by more than 17 percent, and the price of nickel has dropped by 32 percent.
These percentages are nothing to sneeze at, and there is little doubt that budgets, forecasts and profit margins have been knocked askew by the steady downward trend.
Yet, while the downward drift has been relentless, it also has been seen as a relatively welcome scenario compared with alternatives where the appropriate metaphor might be plummeting down a fast rollercoaster or even plunging off a cliff.
Highway engineers certainly have a difficult task keeping the maximum grade at 6 percent when laying a road through a mountain range, but to a great extent they have control over the situation.
Nonferrous traders and recyclers, on the other hand, are at the mercy of a large, global market that can take sharp dives and spikes because of an unexpected data point or a crisis occurring half-a-world away.
As prices of nonferrous metals trended upward during China’s economic growth boom years, a frequent topic of conversation was predicting just how rapidly they might fall when the boom began to lose momentum.
By no means have 2011 and 2012 revealed the full answer to that question, but the grade of descent so far has not met the worst of expectations. Although it is controlled by the invisible hand of the market as opposed to a civil engineer, ideally that angle of descent will remain manageable.
MPI Names Wolf Western Region Sales Manager
Magnetic Products Inc. (MPI), a manufacturer of material handling devices based in Highland, Mich., has added Bob Wolf as western region sales manager. Wolf brings more than 20 years of industrial sales experience and will cover the western U.S. and Canada.
MPI Sales and Marketing Sirector Jack Smylie says, “Bob’s proven ability to quickly grasp the complexity of our customers’ issues, whether an industrial or magnetic separation application, will help MPI to provide the best solution.”
A&A Midwest Adds Leonard O’Connell as COO
Leonard “Len” O’Connell, a veteran automotive aftermarket leader, has joined A&A Midwest of Chicago as chief operating officer (COO). This is a new position within the privately held company.
All company managers now report to O’Connell, who has taken over the day-to-day administrative operations for A&A Midwest, which offers cores, recycling and auto wrecking services. The company also sells engine and transmission hard parts through its EngineQuest and TransmissionQuest divisions. In addition to Chicago, the company operates from a location in Las Vegas and also owns an auto recycling facility in Blue Island, Ill.
O’Connell reports directly to co-presidents Scott Stolberg, who is based in Las Vegas, and William “Billy” Stolberg, who is in Chicago.
“We are pleased to welcome Len to the team,” says Scott. “As our company has grown, we’ve been looking for an individual who could roll up his sleeves to lead the operational side of our business. Len’s unique background in the aftermarket with a major corporation and hands-on approach to problem solving was a perfect fit.”
O’Connell comes to A&A Midwest after a 30-year career at SK Hand Tool Corp., a manufacturer of professional hand tools.
Liebherr Appoints GM of Brand Strategy
Timothy Doucette has been promoted to the newly created position of general manager, brand strategy, for Liebherr Construction Equipment Co. with U.S. headquarters in Newport News, Va.
In this new role, Doucette will work closely with Liebherr president, Duane Wilder to ensure all aspects involving the brand are coordinated to increase Liebherr’s market presence in the U.S. as a manufacturer of heavy duty construction equipment.
The marketing and public relations departments, sales administration and the earthmoving product group will report to Doucette. He also will retain his current role as part of the dealer selection committee.
“Tim has played a key role in our growth over the past several years,” observes Wilder, “and this newly created position provides the opportunity for him to assume an increased leadership role as we continue to grow the Liebherr brand in the USA.”
DJJ Announces Organizational Changes
The David J. Joseph Co. (DJJ), the Cincinnati-based scrap broker, recycler and logistics provider, has announced several organizational changes.
Mark Schaefer, president of U-Pull-&-Pay (UPAP), has been promoted to vice president of DJJ’s Recycling Group. Schaefer, a 27-year veteran of DJJ, will focus on business development in a newly created role. He began his career as a brokerage representative and has held various roles in brokerage services. Schaefer has been president of UPAP since 2007.
Tre Whitmore, vice president of ferrous trading for DJJ’s brokerage group, has been promoted to president of UPAP. Whitmore joined DJJ in 1993 as a brokerage representative. He was later promoted to district manager and has been a ferrous trading vice president since 2006.
Chris Stout, district manager of DJJ’s Birmingham, Ala., trading office, has been promoted to vice president, ferrous trading, succeeding Whitmore. Stout joined the company in 1995 as a buyer and has been district manager since 2001.
Waste Management Restructures Operations
Waste Management Inc. (WM), headquartered in Houston, has announced plans to reorganize its operations. WM says the goal of the restructuring is to flatten the company’s management structure, which will allow it to sharpen its focus on yield management, efficiency in operations and meeting customers’ needs. Corporate staff will be reduced, groups will be consolidated and about 700 employees will be eliminated.
Additionally, the company has announced the following appointments:
- James Trevathan Jr., previously executive vice president of growth, innovation and field support, has been appointed executive vice president and COO.
- Jeff Harris and John Morris have been appointed senior vice presidents of field operations. Harris was most recently senior vice president – Midwest Group, and Morris was most recently chief strategy officer. In their new roles, they will oversee the 17 operating areas.
David Steiner, president and CEO of WM, says, “The steps we are taking to restructure our organization are expected to provide two very important results for us. First, the restructuring is expected to reduce our cost structure by about 100 basis points in 2013. This is a good step toward our longer-term goal to reduce costs by 200 to 400 basis points. Second, we believe that eliminating a layer of management and restructuring our support staff around our three major initiatives will intensify our focus on achieving those initiatives.”
Steiner adds, “Jim Trevathan has been in a role where he had all of the operations staff that supports the field reporting to him. In order to improve the connection between that staff and field operations, it makes sense to have the persons responsible for field operations also reporting to Jim. In addition, we have two excellent executives to fill those field operations roles in Jeff Harris and John Morris. The 17 area vice presidents will report directly to one of these two senior vice presidents.”
James Fish Jr., who was recently named CFO, states, “We will continue to focus on taking costs out of the business through procurement programs and other business improvement initiatives. Reducing our administrative overhead is the next logical step, which we are now taking.”
Secondary plastics markets are varying greatly by grade as summer comes to a close, with some posting considerable losses in terms of pricing and others making considerable gains. Export markets for some secondary plastics seem especially weak as well.
Export pricing for polyethylene films, in particular, has declined by nearly 50 percent in the last quarter, according to a reprocessor based in the Midwest.
The export market for PET (polyethylene terephthalate) also has been soft since March, though a reprocessor based in the South says PET prices saw an increase in August. He describes the export market for PET as “stagnant since March,” adding that May and June were particularly bad.
The reprocessor based in the Midwest says orders for PET from China can either spike or dip in the summertime, depending on production of polyester fiber. This summer has seen exports of recovered PET decline.
According to reports, cotton inventories worldwide are plentiful, as are Chinese inventories of the material, which has created pricing parity between cotton and synthetic fibers such as polyester, making synthetics less attractive. Additional declines in cotton pricing could lessen demand for synthetic fibers, according to National Australia Bank agribusiness economist Michael Creed in an interview with BlackSeaGrain.com.
Polypropylene (PP) also has experienced declining demand and price, falling 25 to 30 percent in value from April to July, the reprocessor based in the South says. He reports that pricing has started to pick up, however, as of early August.
Recycled polystyrene (PS) has received a boost as of late. The material is in demand in light of production woes in the virgin sector.
In early August, Styrolution, a primary supplier of styrene monomers, polystyrene and copolymers and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, declared force majeure on its North American styrene business for that month after it had to shut down its 455,000-metric-ton-per-year styrene plant in Canada at the end of July because of a crack in a heat exchanger. The plant will remain down until the end of October for a scheduled turnaround, as reported by ICIS, a petrochemical market information provider.
The reprocessor based in the South says recycled PS pricing increased by 10 cents per pound in August in response to price increases for virgin material.
Industrial generation continues to be slow, as expected in the summer months, though it is beginning to increase as of mid-August, sources say.
The reprocessor based in the South says he suspects some material recovery facilities (MRFs) may be sitting on inventory when it comes to PET and other post-consumer material, awaiting better pricing.
Domestic demand for recycled plastics is generally characterized as healthy. “If I had more material to sell, I could sell it,” the reprocessor based in the South says.
(Additional information about secondary plastics, including breaking news and consuming industry reports, is available at www.RecyclingToday.com.)
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1. A-Ward Mi-Slide Compactor/Loader. A-Ward, with North American offices in Port Wentworth, Ga., has introduced a scrap metal compacting, baling and loading machine that the company says is designed to offer greater transportation efficiency for recyclers. Features include:
- Designed to load 20- and 40-foot containers with light- or heavy-gauge material
- The Mi-Slide compactor vertically compacts the material
- A horizontal baler further compresses the material, pushing the finished bale into the Mi-Slide’s loader chute
- Mi-Slide pushes bales from the chute into the container
Visit a-ward.com/product/mislide-horizontal-loader for more information.
2. MSS L-VIS Optical Sorting Technology. Optical sorting equipment manufacturer MSS Inc., based in Nashville, Tenn., has introduced the L-VIS high-resolution color camera sorting system for small particle applications, such as shredded and granulated materials. Capabilities include:
- Engineered to provide separation accuracy up to 98 percent
- Available shape identification software algorithm designed for sorting wires
- High-resolution air-jet array
- Available all-metal detector
- Can be configured via a touch-screen interface
- Offered in 32-inch, 48-inch and 64 inch sizes
Visit www.magsep.com for more information.
3. Dust Control Technology DustBoss Line. Equipment manufacturer Dust Control Technology (DCT), based in Peoria, Ill., has designed a new DustBoss system for use in fixed locations. Features include:
- Designed to extend reach and improve aim of dust suppression equipment
- Mist of millions of 50- to 200-micron droplets per minute
- Available in three tower sizes and heights up to 20 feet
Visit www.dustboss.com for more information.
4. Cemco Glass Gator. Cemco Inc., Belen, N.M., has introduced the Glass Gator glass recycling tool. Features include:
- Turns glass into a 100-percent-recyclable cullet or soft-edged sand byproduct
- Can process up to 80 bottles per minute and accepts empty glass containers or broken glass
- Offers an eight-to-one size reduction for decreased disposal and hauling costs
- Available in two models and can be customized
Visit www.cemcoturbo.com for more information.
Even during a highly charged election season, one thing we can all agree on is the need for new sources of domestic energy.
My organization represents manufacturers of plastics, a family of raw materials used in cars, electronics, construction, medical devices and countless consumer goods and packages. Like those of you involved in developing energy from waste, we are extremely aware that energy-rich wastes, whether discarded from homes, businesses, construction or manufacturing, are all too often–and often unnecessarily–destined for landfills.
At the same time, we are encouraged by the growing list of forward-thinking communities in places like Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Texas that are tapping into this abundant resource by finding innovative ways to recover energy from waste. And in these communities, this locally sourced energy is helping to power homes, businesses, and transportation—all of which contribute to economic growth.
So how much potential energy from waste is out there? When it comes to efficient waste diversion, we all know that recycling comes first—but not all wastes can be economically recycled. That’s where energy recovery comes in. A recent study conducted by the Earth Engineering Center at Columbia University found that if all of our nation’s non-recycled waste was converted into energy, it would generate enough energy to power more than 16 million homes annually, possibly more, depending on the technology.
Converting waste into energy isn’t a new idea—it’s being done now, although on a smaller than ideal scale. What has captured our attention is that researchers and entrepreneurs are close to commercializing a number of newer technologies that can supplement traditional conversion, delivering a range of energy outputs, from synthetic crude oil, to solid fuels, gases and chemical raw materials. Let’s take a closer look at one of these.
Unlocking the Potential
This summer, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the University of Texas at Austin jointly released a new study that reaffirmed the value of everyday waste as a clean, abundant, affordable source of domestic energy. Specifically, the study demonstrated that fuel engineered from non-recycled plastics and other materials could successfully power a cement kiln (cement kilns are notoriously energy-intensive) located in Texas. The research showed that solid pellets engineered from waste could serve as valuable fuel for not only cement kilns, but potentially for other energy intensive commercial and industrial operations.
Results Are In
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and University of Texas at Austin say their study reaffirms the value of everyday waste as a clean, abundant, affordable source of domestic energy.
The study, completed by Michael Webber, Ph.D, and his team of university researchers, demonstrated that fuel engineered from non-recycled plastics and other materials could successfully power a Texas cement kiln. The research showed that fuel engineered from waste could serve as valuable fuel for not only cement kilns but potentially for other energy-intensive commercial and industrial operations.
The energy-content fuel developed and used in the study surpassed that of some forms of coal, according to the researchers. Webber’s team also found that if 5 percent of unusable materials from recycling facilities were diverted from landfills to energy recovery, it would generate enough energy to power about 700,000 homes each year.
“In this case, one person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure. Americans send tons of waste to landfills each and every day, meaning that one of America’s most abundant and affordable sources of energy ends up buried in landfills,” says Cal Dooley, president and CEO of ACC. “It’s time we got smart and made energy recovery a central part of America’s energy strategy.”
According to the ACC, this most recent study represents one of many promising methods being developed to harness the energy from waste. The field of energy recovery is one of the major parts of ACC’s “From Chemistry to Energy” campaign.
ACC says it advocates for a comprehensive national energy strategy that maximizes all domestic energy resources, with a focus on robust and responsible production of domestic shale gas; improved residential, commercial and industrial energy efficiency; and expanded adoption of energy recovery programs. Each will help meet national energy security, economic and environmental goals while creating value for communities, says the ACC.
The University of Texas study also examined the benefits of energy recovery relative to a proven fuel source —coal—and found that the energy content of the fuel used in the study surpassed some forms of coal. Based on this finding, the researchers calculated that that if only five percent of unusable materials from recycling facilities (commonly referred to as “residue”) were diverted from landfills to produce energy, it would generate enough energy to power approximately 700,000 American homes annually. At the same time, the reductions in carbon emissions as compared to coal would be equivalent to removing one million cars from U.S. roads, and there would be significant reductions in sulfur emissions.
The University of Texas study was led by Dr. Michael E. Webber, who summarized its conclusions as follows: “The findings from our study demonstrate how engineered fuels can make a meaningful contribution to our nation’s strategy while reducing carbon and sulfur emissions compared to some forms of energy. The combination of environmental benefits, emerging science, and economic opportunity make recovering energy from waste an opportunity that we can’t afford to ignore.”
One reason municipal solid waste has such a high energy value is that it contains non-recycled plastics. Today, we’re able to recycle more plastics than ever before, and it’s important for all of us to recycle whatever we can. But when plastics become contaminated with food and other substances—making it difficult to economically recycle them—it’s still possible to recover the energy locked inside them. Non-recycled plastics make excellent feedstock for many forms of energy recovery.
In fact, the Columbia University study I mentioned earlier also looked at just the non-recycled plastics in municipal solid waste. This study found that if all of the non-recycled plastics discarded in the United States annually were diverted to modern waste-to-energy facilities, they could produce 52 million megawatt hours of electricity, or enough to power 5.2 million households per year. Alternatively, that same amount of non-recycled plastics could be transformed into enough fuel to run six million cars each year.
Already in the U.S., some regions have advanced their waste management operations to recycle all they can and recover valuable energy from what they cannot. In the U.S., states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maine, Virginia, and Minnesota are combining recycling and energy recovery programs to convert large portions of waste into raw materials and energy resources.
In Connecticut, approximately 65 percent of the state’s used plastics were either recycled to create new products or recovered to create energy in 2008. And last year, Maryland passed legislation to designate waste-to-energy a “Tier 1 renewable energy resource” under the state’s renewable portfolio standard.
Countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and others already have implemented aggressive energy recovery programs. Some of them have achieved really impressive success rates, diverting more than 90 percent of their municipal solid wastes from landfill through recycling and energy recovery.
So, how can the United States tap into more of this abundant source of domestic energy? We need policies that support increasing energy recovery as a complement to recycling and an important contributor of domestic energy. As an industry that understands the opportunities and possibilities that energy recovery can bring to communities across America, all of us can play a role in helping to educate public policymakers and encouraging them to enact sound policies.
Specifically, we need our federal lawmakers to recognize energy recovery as a critical component of a comprehensive domestic energy strategy and to make sure that forms of energy recovered from waste quality under definitions of “renewable energy” and “clean energy.” This would help support entrepreneurs and innovators who are working to grow this industry. We also need to change federal policies to define non-recycled plastics and other materials with energy value as “fuel” rather than “waste.”
At the state level, we need policy makers to clarify and simplify environmental permitting processes. Current processes are often slow and overly complex–in part because policymakers are unfamiliar with these relatively new technologies and unsure of how to categorize them. Of equal importance, we need policy makers to make sure that energy recovered from waste gets counted toward states’ mandated recycling and recovery rates.
Last fall, the U.S. Capitol began a partnership with a local waste-to-energy facility. Now, as much as 90 percent of the Capitol campus’ non-recycled solid waste is being processed at a local waste-to-energy facility to generate steam and electricity.
And this summer, leaders from both parties participated in an energy recovery forum on Capitol Hill–demonstrating that energy recovery is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and leaders from industry and academia, participating in an American Chemistry Council-hosted policy event, called for energy recovery to be recognized as an essential element of America’s long-term energy strategy.
It’s heartening that our political leadership understands that innovations in energy recovery technologies are producing a range of new fuels, products, and energy from resources that were once destined for landfills. And a growing body of evidence supports the energy, environmental and economic benefits of many forms of energy recovery.
We will continue to encourage more policy makers to become engaged in seeking out and supporting innovative energy solutions, and we look forward to working with the innovators in this sector to highlight the important but too-often unrecognized work that you do to tap this enormous resource.
The author is vice president, plastics division, American Chemistry Council. Studies mentioned in this article and other resources are available at http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/EnergyRecovery.
See the process
To watch a video showing how non-recycled plastics were used as a fuel source in this study, visit www.rewmag.com/acc-plastics-study-2012.aspx.