Numerous companies add heavy media plant operations
Twitch produced by Levitated Metals in New Caney, Texas
Photo courtesy of Levitated Metals

Numerous companies add heavy media plant operations

The sector has seen a number of investments recently.

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September 28, 2021

A number of new heavy media plants have been announced or started up recently. In addition to the newly opened Levitated Metals in New Caney, Texas, which began operating earlier this year, Alter Trading Corp. (which currently operates a plant in Davenport, Iowa) and Audubon Metals LLC announced plans to open heavy media plants, while Schnitzer began running such a plant in Georgia in April, and American Iron & Metal (AIM) is operating one in Montreal. Schnitzer says it also has plans to install a heavy media plant in Portland, Oregon.

Alliance Metals, a secondary aluminum smelter with a new location in Leighton, Alabama, also has announced that it is buying zorba that it will separate to produce cast aluminum alloys, though it has not specified the type of separation process it is using.

These new facilities are coming online at the same time secondary aluminum producers struggle in the face of the slowdown in automotive manufacturing related to the semiconductor chip shortage.

In January, St. Louis-based Alter announced that it had partnered with Toyota Tsusho America Inc. (TAI) to form Altech Recycling LLC. That company has constructed a heavy media plant in Arkansas to produce aluminum products from shredded scrap. The new company’s output will supplement demand at TAI production facilities as well as supply other business partners in North America, Alter says.

TAI is the North American-based affiliate of Toyota Tsusho Corp. of Japan, a member of the Toyota Group, which also includes Toyota Motor, Toyota Industries, Aichi Steel, JTEKT, Toyota Auto Body, Aisin Seiki, Denso, Toyota Boshoku, Towa Real Estate, Toyota Central R&D Labs, Toyota Motor East Japan, Toyoda Gosei, Hino Motors, Daihatsu Motor, Toyota Home and Toyota Motor Kyushu.

The Altech plant will process zorba supplied by Alter and other shredder operators as needed into aluminum twitch and zebra, a heavies product, to meet market demand, Jack Grundfest, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Alter told Recycling Today at the time of the announcement.

“The vast majority of the twitch will be for domestic consumption at Toyota Tsusho facilities, while the heavies will be sold to export customers for further processing,” Grundfest said.

Altech Recycling is in North Little Rock, Arkansas, two miles from the shredder Alter operates in that city on land it acquired when it purchased Tenenbaum Recycling Group in 2018. “That property offered the perfect start for this project,” Grundfest said.

In mid-September, Jay Robinovitz, CEO of Alter, says the plant is in the commissioning phase and should be in full production soon. “At this point, we will supply the plant with internally generated feedstock, begin testing of some third-party suppliers and will determine over time the need for outside supply as we balance the market needs for finished goods,” he says.

Alter, Schnitzer and AIM each operate automobile shredders, therefore their heavy media plants will have zorba readily available for processing, while Levitated, Audubon and Alliance will need to purchase this material.

As secondary aluminum producers, Audubon and Alliance Metals will be consuming the twitch their sorting plants produce. On a similar vein and because of its relationship with Toyota, the Altech plant also has an offtake agreement in place, giving all three businesses a strategic advantage.

Henderson, Kentucky-based Audubon has constructed its second heavy media plant and aluminum alloys production facility in Corsicana, Texas, about 60 miles south of Dallas. A January 2020 report on the Corsicana Daily Sun website indicates Audubon is investing $50 million in the facility.

According to the Daily Sun, the plant will operate similarly to Audubon’s existing facility in Kentucky. At that location in Henderson, mixed shredded metals such as zorba are further separated in a heavy media plant, with the aluminum portion melted to create specification secondary aluminum alloys used by die-casting firms.

Audubon Metals LLC is part of Evansville, Indiana-based Koch Enterprises Inc., a nearly 150-year-old family business with six companies in its portfolio.

Recycling Today attempted to reach out to Audubon about the status of the new facility, but the company did not immediately respond.