France’s MTB Recycling experiences the scrap industry from every angle as a processor and equipment designer.
|Aluminium processing equipment at MTB’s Trept, France, recycling facility can process up to 25,000 pounds per hour.
MTB Recycling, based in the city of Trept in southern France (near Lyon), was founded in 1981 by Francis Sevilla and Guy Sosson, who set out with the idea of being both in the scrap metal processing business and the recycling equipment business.
According to Jean-Philippe Fusier, who is president of MTB Recycling and became its owner in 2010, “I don’t know how to explain it, but it seemed natural to them to do both at the same time—more than 30 years ago—and we’ve never stopped.”
Three decades later, MTB is known worldwide as a maker of equipment designed for such scrap processing applications as wire and cable recycling. At the same time, it has steadily grown in the annual volume of materials it handles and processes, drawing some material from southern France and northern Italy, but also from around the world for some specialized applications.
Beyond France and its neighboring countries, MTB Recycling is recognized as a manufacturer of processing equipment that is sold globally with the “Made in France” label.
Nearly all of the equipment that MTB has offered to the global market, however, was first used at its own bustling 80,000-square-metre (860,000-square-foot) scrap recycling site in Trept. A construction project underway will add another 20,000 square metres of space, with half of the new space devoted to a new venture called MTB Engineering that will be announced in late November.
To call the processing center in Trept a “scrap yard,” however, probably does not do justice to the wide variety of recycling activities that take place there.
Fusier describes MTB Recycling’s processing operations as consisting of four main branches:
- Copper and aluminium wire and cable processing;
- Nonferrous and nonmetallic scrap processing beyond wire and cable, including radiators, auto shredder residue (ASR) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic;
- WEEE (waste electrical and electronics equipment) materials processing and product destruction; and
- Tyre recycling.
“We receive a lot of our material from France,” notes Fusier, “but we also handle material from places farther away, such as Eastern Europe or even farther away than that.”
Wire and cable have been a focus for MTB for much of its history and, thus, also has been the leading sector for which MTB Recycling equipment has been designed.
Fusier, says, however, that some of the other segments into which MTB has entered have been crucial in allowing the company to expand the volume of material it handles each month and each year.
“The goal is to grow from processing 4,000 tonnes per month to 6,000 tonnes,” he comments. Even reaching that 72,000 tonnes-per-year goal will not cause MTB to elbow its way onto a “world’s largest recyclers” list, but Fusier says that is not necessarily the objective.
“It is not a huge quantity, but it is the right amount to continue to help us to learn what is changing in the recycling business as it happens.”
New and Improved
Among the markets into which MTB Recycling has been devoting more time is the WEEE sector. Processing this diverse, multiple-material stream offers the kind of challenges for which new and innovative equipment can be part of the solution.
Jean-Philippe Fusier, president of MTB Recycling, headquartered in Trept, France, acknowledges that he did not grow up dreaming of being part of the scrap recycling industry.
Fusier studied to be a mechanical engineer, obtaining the degree he wanted and starting out with a global machinery manufacturing company.
“I had wanted to work for the auto industry, but it seems like [the innovation] in that sector was completed 100 years ago,” says Fusier. “I have a friend who is fond of old cars [and] he has a 100-year-old one. When you look at the technology, comparing today’s cars to that old one, the most important aspects of it was already there in the old one. In 100 years we’ve made it cheaper,” says Fusier, also acknowledging automotive safety and electronics advances.
After joining MTB Recycling in the late 1990s, Fusier says he has enjoyed the experience that has followed. “In recycling, every day is a new customer, a new challenge and you have to find new answers,” he states. “That’s exciting.”
Scrap recycling may not have been on his agenda as a student, but Fusier says has been satisfied with the role it has played in his life. “When you’re young you hope you’ll do something in life, and I’ve already done 10 times more than I thought I would in my entire life. What I like is that it’s a job that’s never finished. We are still at the very beginning of something.”
To some extent, says Fusier, the company’s existing wire and cable processing equipment was being used by recyclers of WEEE materials. “A lot of our customers already wanted our equipment for this application, but as with scrap metal, we wanted to learn by being a processor,” he comments. “So three or four years ago, we began at zero and now we receive a few thousand tonnes per year.”
The sorting that takes place after mixed electronic items have been shredded is presenting MTB Recycling with considerable new equipment ideas, says Fusier. He lists shredders, granulators, separation tables and concentrators as among the equipment categories that can be used when processing and sorting the WEEE stream.
MTB’s attention to the WEEE stream may yield further equipment opportunities, he adds. “There is aluminium, copper, zinc and other metal in this stream. A lot of the equipment we are using we can also use for ASR processing.”
Tied into the WEEE sector can be product destruction, because of the sometimes confidential data found on hard drives and memory chips or to prevent unauthorised resale.
“We have performed a lot of destruction jobs,” says Fusier. “We performed the destruction of French franc coins [after the changeover to the euro] and we’ve shredded pleasure-craft boats in the 20-foot size range,” he adds.
Recycling PVC plastic has not always been considered the most profitable endeavor among recyclers, but Fusier says MTB was asked by a sizable global company to find an end-of-life solution for its PVC scrap, other plastics, metals and obsolete products.
“They have a worldwide policy to recycle the products at end-of-life,” he comments. “It is sent here to Trept, where we shred it and have a chemical process to make new PVC out of it.”
This closed-loop system started about five years ago, says Fusier. “They came to us to buy equipment, and we countered with this closed-loop process.”
The PVC processing system is one of many toll processing arrangements MTB Recycling has with some of its customers. In a company brochure, MTB says it “can handle both common products and unusual or rare types of [material], all under optimal conditions for a complete separation and size reduction.”
A Can-do Culture
When asked what factors have distinguished MTB Recycling and helped it thrive after three decades as both a processor and an equipment maker, Fusier most prominently cites its workplace culture.
“When you’re inside MTB, you have the feeling you are at Google,” he comments. “There is an atmosphere of wanting to get things done. It may be 6:45 on Friday evening, but there will be people here working. They work because they love what they do and they care about their customers. There is an atmosphere that is very different,” he states.
Fusier has been in a position to have observed varying company cultures, having spent several years working in other industry sectors before starting with MTB in 1997.
Previously, he had worked for a large manufacturer and a utility. “I’ll certainly say that in at least one of those jobs, it was not fun. It was the kind of place where you worked your seven or eight hours and you wanted to leave,” says Fusier. “Here, I’m happy to be here on a Friday evening—it’s that kind of company.”
Fusier believes the job satisfaction experienced by MTB’s employees shows through to the company’s customers. “During my vacation, a Russian customer called me and wanted to visit MTB immediately, so I came back to Trept and met him on a Saturday,” recounts Fusier of one example.
“After we had met, he went to see one of my competitors,” he continues. “After I called him again, he said there was a huge difference in the way we operate. MTB was very open and showed him everything.
“I have many stories of this kind.”
Fusier says he is confident that the growth track that MTB Recycling has been on can continue. “We have made a lot of investments in the last two years to be able to process more material,” he states. “We are entering more applications and we’ll have more equipment to introduce as well.”
He concludes by saying that the way MTB Recycling does things may not always be the easiest way to do things, but that is by design. “We’ll continue in this direction. It is not the easy or simple direction, but we want to be a complete recycler.”
The author is editorial director of Recycling Today Global Edition. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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