Smaller, more economical shredding plants are allowing a growing number of recyclers to enter the field and upgrade more materials.
Editor’s Note: This two-part series looks at the product benefits of smaller shredding systems. Downstream separation techniques, including those used with smaller shredders, will be covered in the next issue of Recycling Today Global Edition.
The high initial costs to purchase an auto shredder put it well out of range for many medium and small-sized scrap metal processors, at least in years past.
However the recent trend towards the availability of smaller shredders capable of processing cars means more recyclers can now afford to invest in this technology.
Economic forces also have played a role in this product’s increasing popularity. Post-recession, many recyclers have learned that being able to shred and upgrade certain types of feedstock, including automobiles, is more advantageous and profitable than simply selling those items further up the chain.
Smaller shredder sizes, with hammer swings in widths between 60 and 70 inches, have been available for years, says Chad Grohman, vice president of sales for Metso Recycling North America, based in San Antonio, Texas.
However, Grohman notes, the popularity of smaller units has noticeably increased, particularly since the 2008 recession. Since then, competition for scrapped vehicles has heated up and recyclers’ business models have likewise evolved.
“There’s so much competition for that feedstock that a lot of the smaller shredder operators are buying more peddler scrap, often referred to as collector scrap, over the scale.”
Similarly, Mark Ridall, business development director with Wendt Corp., based in Tonawanda, N.Y., in the United States, says the smaller units’ popularity can be attributed largely to the many financial benefits these smaller shredders can offer.
“If you talk to many of the current shredder operators, their margins on shredded steel continue to dwindle,” Ridall says. He cites increasing operating, labor and fuel costs as a key factors. “We haven’t seen, since the early 2008 timeframe, the ridiculously huge sell prices for shredded steel.”
Another key reason for the rise in popularity of the smaller shredders, Grohman says, is the lower cost of entry to the auto shredding field, based on the lower initial investment that a smaller shredder requires.
“Everyone feels they have to have a shredder to be able to compete and offer the same commodities,” says Grohman.
Similarly, Ridall says the smaller plants are significantly less expensive to purchase and operate, in some cases costing half as much as their larger counterparts.
Toward that end, the use of a smaller shredder may involve a restructuring in costs and profit. Grohman describes a business model in which smaller operators now have the means to upgrade more types of scrap, in smaller volumes, on their own, “as opposed to the larger (super-sized) shredders that need to process between 30,000 and 50,000 tons a month to make the economics work,” he says.
A smaller yard that purchases a smaller plant can process and upgrade its own material rather than simply reselling the material to a more traditional auto shredding company, as has been typical in the past.
Ridall notes that with a smaller mill, the smaller scrap yard will ultimately have much more control over the company’s future growth, since the shredder yields a new revenue source for them.
At Metso, Grohman says the use of the smaller shredder fits a niche market: “our customers that handle between 2,000 and 8,000 tons a month of shreddable scrap, but not necessarily a high volume of automobiles,” he explains.
In most cases, Grohman adds, Metso’s smaller shredders typically are designed to handle a feedstock of about 70% to 80% loose goods such as sheet metal and appliances, with the balance being automobiles. Common items may include a mix of household scrap and appliances, such as water heaters, refrigerators, washers, dryers and light commercial scrap.
Wendt’s Model 60 is also designed to handle capacities of 8,000 tons per month or less, Ridall says. He also explains that the smaller footprint of the smaller plants can be another major factor, particularly in regions where it’s difficult to find 10-plus acres of relatively flat land to house a shredding operation.
Metso’s TS PowerShred 69/90, now the company’s most popular model, offers a 69-inch hammerswing and a 90-inch-wide opening. Besides taking up a smaller footprint than larger mills, according to Metso, the 69/90 and competitive models allow for a lower cost to enter the shredding arena, while providing similar capabilities of some of the larger auto shredders.
The 69/90 size can still accommodate most cars, Grohman says, since the average car measures about 82 inches wide. “With that 90-inch width we can still feed automobiles without any preparation,” he says.
Meanwhile, Wendt’s Model 60 shredder is the smallest mill the company offers. Ridall says the company, which makes only auto shredders, for years has been known as a manufacturer of world’s largest shredders. “A little more than two years ago we were asked to build a small shredder,” he explains, “and now it’s the single most popular mill that we offer.”
Ridall says the company’s Model 60 has a 93-inch opening. “It can shred anything that a big mill can do, just on a smaller scale,” he says. A property size of three acres is all that’s required for this mill, Ridall adds.
US Shredder, based in Trussville, Ala., also offers a small shredder, its Model 7090, which is designed to compete with lighter 6080 models, the company says on its website.
Bill Tigner, president of US Shredder, says the biggest benefit of the 7090 is the size and strength of the machine.
“Most ‘small’ shredders on the market today have 60-inch diameter rotors and 2-inch side walls,” says Tigner. “Our 70-inch rotor creates 33% more hammer impact. It also has 4-inch side walls just like the larger machines.”
Tigner says that while 60 inch rotors can accept car bodies and other scrap, the life of the rotor can be diminished as a result. “A 70-inch rotor can last up to three to four times longer than a 60-inch rotor,” he says.
Less expensive drive systems needed with smaller mills can contribute to their lower overall cost. In terms of motor size, Wendt’s Model 60 can run from 1000 hp up to 2500 hp, Ridall says. The mill is capable of shredding as little as 20 tons per hour up to 70 tons per hour, depending on the motor, he notes.
The Metso 69/90 utilizes a similar sized motor range, from 1,500 to 2,500 hp, Grohman says.
“Your power consumption is less because you have a smaller drive motor,” says Grohman. The 69/90 can run 50 to 60 tons per hour on the high end, he notes. In contrast, a 100-inch mill can run as much as 200 tons an hour with a 5000-horsepower drive system.
Operationally, manufacturers say the smaller shredders work very much like their larger siblings.
For instance, says Grohman, the 69/90 uses a double-feed roller to compress the material in the feed chute and push it into the shredder, much the same as larger shredders.
Metso’s smaller shredders also come with a basic yet comprehensive automation package.
“Typically the controls packages are fairly basic because obviously economics are of concern,” Grohman explains. Upgrade options could include an autopilot, or automated function.
Similarly, Ridall says Wendt’s Model 60 uses many of the same technology advancements of the larger shredders in terms of the auto-driver function, water injection and multi-positioning maintenance features. “It’s designed just like the bigger mill, but in a smaller package,” Ridall explains.
A wide range of customization options are another benefit.
“What the small mill has allowed us to do is to customize each shredding solution for a buyer’s individual needs,” says Ridall. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Likewise, Grohman notes that Metso’s smaller shredders may be fed by conveyors. Otherwise, the shredders are direct-fed using a crane, or can be fed with a tilt-table onto which feedstock is loaded before cylinders lift the table to feed the shredder chute.
The feed options for Wendt’s Model 60 are similar, though Ridall says that every Model 60 the company has sold so far has been installed with an infeed conveyor, which allows the operator to achieve higher processing through-puts, Ridall says.
Another key selling point of the smaller shredders is that they can compare favorably to larger shredders on a cost per ton basis. “They have similar conversion costs,” Grohman says.
That’s further enhanced by the fact that the cost to purchase a smaller shredder is markedly lower: Metso’s smaller systems cost anywhere from $2.5 million up to $3.5 million depending on variable options, Groh-man says, such as whether the system has an infeed conveyor or air system.
Meanwhile the next step up in size he says, which is the 80/104 shredder can cost around $4 million on the low end.