Keith Freegard says larger facilities need to be built with flexibility in mind.
Keith Freegard, director of the U.K.-based resource recovery firm Axion Consulting, discussed steps that companies can take to ensure that newly built materials recycling facilities (MRFs) can meet the needs of future market opportunities during the recent Paper Recycling Conference & Trade show, held in Warsaw in late October.
Freegard noted that incorporating "future-proof" design concepts into the layout and operating principles of new MRFs is vital if managers are to improve the quality and maximize profits from their investments.
Concepts such as planning for expansion, predicting likely changes in feed composition and installing good management information systems are other essential elements for ensuring a MRF can meet future waste management and processing challenges, he added.
With most paper collected via curbside commingled systems, there’s much greater pressure on primary sorting MRF operators to keep other waste materials, such as plastics, out of their paper streams to ensure high quality output and value for the processing mills, Freegard said. “There’s a great need in this industry to do a more consistent, higher quality job of the in-feed sortation as any contaminants can create problems in the pulping process.”
His presentation focused on how the design, precise knowledge of in-feed materials and getting the right skills mix can help MRF operators extract the most from their process plants and be ready to meet future waste management challenges.
“Efficient design takes account of the specification and mix of waste materials changing over time. Building in expansion space for additional units in the future, such as longer conveyors with enough room to add extra sorting systems, means you don’t have to completely change your plant layout, which incurs more cost and expensive downtime,” he explained.
“In-depth knowledge and analysis of in-feed materials will aid plant design and layout, and help to plan for and cope with future challenges, such as increased complexity of waste products and more material types being collected for sorting,” Freegard continued.
“Good management systems are vital in MRFs; if you have a multi-million pound investment and complex sorting process it’s no good asking personnel who used to run the landfill site to operate it. You really have to train them in proper ways of monitoring, managing and controlling plant. We are now in a ‘new era’ where qualified process engineers need to be designing and operating technically-advanced materials resource recovery plants, not just ‘handling waste’.”
Highlighting possible solutions and future markets, from developments in sensor-based sorting to consumers’ greener attitudes, he concluded: “Big process plants must be designed for flexibility and need proper management. New technological developments should be welcomed—you will need them one day.”