Best Intentions

Several European organisations are finalizing a “best available techniques” document for metal shredding plant operators.

September 10, 2013
Brian Taylor

Metal shredding plants by their design and assigned task can involve a significant amount of noise as well as the potential for air and water emissions that will almost certainly cause neighboring property owners to ask questions.

Plant operators generally take precautions to be good neighbors as well as to protect the ear drums, respiratory health and overall safety of their employees.

Several recycling organisations, however, are accumulating the combined knowledge of their member companies and longtime employees of those companies to produce a set of operating and environmental best practices for shredding plant operators.

Getting Together

As described by longtime Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Shredder Committee member Manuel Burnand of Coframetal, France, a number of groups have been involved in the creation of the European Union (EU) Shredder Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF).

At the BIR Shredder Committee meeting in Shanghai in late May 2013, Burnand updated attendees on behalf of French shredding plant operator Derichebourg (of which Coframetal is a subsidiary), as well as the shredder commission of FEDEREC (Fédération des Entreprises du Recyclage) and the Shredder Group of the EFR (European Ferrous Recovery & Recycling Federation).

Burnand said EFR began its efforts on the BREF document in 2010, when it created a committee or sub-group that eventually included members from nine nations: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Of particular help have been existing documents from Belgium, Germany and the U.K. that provided environmental or operating best practices guidance.

The U.K. contribution has come in the form of a Best Available Techniques (BAT) recommendations document that has been presented by the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) to several pertinent British environmental agencies.

An EU Shredder Snapshot

According to Manuel Burnand of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Shredder Committee, more than 330 metal shredders are operating in 25 European Union (EU) nations.

These are shredding plants considered large enough to process end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) or other types of metal scrap beyond the more specialised waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) shredders.

Sorted by horsepower, the metal shredders can be divided into these categories:

  • 120 plants with 500 horsepower to 1,499 horsepower motors;
  • 100 plants with 1,500 horsepower to 2,999 horsepower motors;
  • 50 plants with 3,000 horsepower or stronger motors; and
  • 60 plants with unknown motor sizes.

According to a list of auto shredders compiled in 2009 by the BIR and the European Ferrous Recovery & Recycling Federation (EFR), among EU nations France was home to the most shredders at that time with 54.

Italy was behind by just one with 53 shredding plants, followed by Germany with 46, the United Kingdom with 35 and Spain with 26.

The recommendations, prepared in cooperation with Mayer Environmental Consultants, Brentford, U.K., run for more than 100 pages and address both air and water emissions aspects of operating a shredding plant.

The BAT effort is likely to provide a solid foundation for the wider BREF document, although as Burnand noted in his presentation, the BREF document will be broadened to cover some 330 shredding plants in 25 countries.

At the same time the BREF committee is working on finalizing its document for larger metals shredders, it also will be working on a parallel document “regarding high-capacity dedicated WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment) shredders in order to edit an eventual complementary document,” said Burnand.

Goals and Techniques

The BAT document, posted at uploads/files/BREF%20Report%20Jan%2013.pdf on the Web, is divided into 12 sections and numerous sub-sections to cover many aspects of operating a shredding plant.

After outlining the various sampling and information gathering techniques the BAT researchers undertook while preparing the document, the report’s authors list seven recommendations they consider to be “of greatest benefit, effectiveness and feasibility” if implemented by all operators. They are:

  • implementation of certified environmental management and quality management systems;
  • material acceptance procedures and radiation screening;
  • continual infeed inspection, including detailed risk-based inspection plans for bales, old appliances and ELVs (end-of-life vehicles);
  • covering of conveyor belts and some downstream processing operations and the use of water mist and spray dust suppression;
  • undercover storage of process outputs and residues (not including ferrous materials);
  • routine monitoring and measurement of consumption; and
  • routine monitoring and measurement of emissions.

Regarding noise, the BAT researchers took measurements both when the shredder was running and when it was idle and found, perhaps not surprisingly, “that the mill is the main source of noise on the site even though the other operations would generate a significant contribution.”

The shredder, on average, added from 10 to 16 decibels of noise in addition to the sound of other processing equipment, material handling machinery and any other sources of noise that may be nearby.

The report’s authors note that adding distance from the shredding plant is one way to mitigate noise risks, but that this is impractical when the efficient movement of bulk materials is such an integral part of the operation.

“The limited ability for relocation on many installations means screening and operational/management changes may be necessary to control noise,” state the authors. “Local screening and localised noise barriers placed around particular activities or processes would achieve significant noise reductions. With use of the appropriate noise absorbing materials this could be 5 to 10 decibels on the screened side.”

When it comes to particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, the researchers found that shredder designers and operators had made large strides in restricting these airborne emissions. However, that does not mean the battle is completely won.


In a Best Available Techniques (BAT) document that has been prepared by the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) in cooperation with Mayer Environmental Consultants, Brentford, U.K., operators of metal shredding plants are urged to play several important quality control roles when it comes to feeding the shredder.

Managers and production personnel each play roles, according to the BAT document authors, when it comes to setting up and enforcing several important procedures:

  • radioactivity screening;
  • screening of delivery paperwork—confirming the suitability of EWC (European Waste Catalogue) codes—provision of identification;
  • weighing of all materials as they arrive;
  • confirmation that sufficient storage capacity is available to receive the incoming load;
  • confirmation of the potential risk of the material and supplier;
  • visual inspection of load pre tipping;
  • immediate visual inspection of load post tipping;
  • spot sampling of materials to confirm their suitability;
  • notification of noncompliance with paperwork descriptions; and
  • rejection of unsuitable material.

“The point source emissions for the mill and the stack, whilst difficult to measure, do not appear to be the major source of aerial output; levels of particulates, metals and VOCs appear to be largely controlled,” the BAT report states. “Other site operations, including the movement of materials, conveyors, tipping and dropping, sorting and segregation operations, would appear to be the main source.”

Operators also must be mindful of proper water treatment, according to the report. “The drainage waters on site were found to be of generally low quality, in terms of low levels of oxygenation and the accumulation of potential contaminants, albeit the actual water quality is dictated by the consent to discharge.”

Standard Issue

Among the recommendations of the BAT document’s authors are for shredding plant operators to seek ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) certification for key quality management components of their operations.

“Operators should implement a formal environmental management system with certification to the ISO 14001 standard or registration under EMAS (EU Eco Management and Audit Scheme),” states the document.

“An operator implementing such a system will not only find it easier to meet the BAT requirements for management of the facility but also many of the other technical/regulatory requirements listed in other sections of this document,” the authors continue. “Both certification and registration provide independent verification that the environmental management system conforms to an auditable standard.”

Companies installing new shredding plants can likewise benefit by seeking ISO certification during the installation process, say the BAT document authors.

An externally qualified ISO 9001:2008 certification process can “focus the installation management on efficiency and consistency of production,” say the BAT researchers. “The use of QMS (quality management systems) in the metals fragmentisation industry has assumed additional significance as it is one of the requirements for metal recyclers seeking to apply for ‘end-of-waste’ status for their processed material under EU Regulation 333/2011,” the report also notes.

While company owners and managers can help enact these broader steps, the BAT document’s authors also note there is plenty that day-to-day operating personnel can do to maintain best practices, especially when it comes to feeding the shredder. (See the sidebar “Incoming”)

Burnand said the work of the BMRA and others has helped keep the process of putting together a Europe-wide BREF document moving forward.

Among the next steps will be additional review and comments from other national federations; conversations between these federations and their national environmental ministries; and conversations with the FEAD (European Waste Association) about how the document overlaps with waste BREF documents.

More will be learned about the status of the metals shredder BREF, said Burnand, when the EFR and other key stakeholders meet in Sevilla, Spain, in late 2013 with the BREF as the center of discussion.

The author is editor of Recycling Today Global Edition and can be contacted at