Mindful MRF design

Features - Modern MRF Design

Mazza Recycling’s strategic planning and careful consideration of modern equipment led to the creation of a nationally recognized MRF.

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March 1, 2022

Photos courtesy of Mazza Recycling

Mazza Recycling, based in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, was built around serving the demolition industry. What began in 1964 as a facility that specialized in demolition and scrap metal recycling has evolved into a full-scale recycling operation serving roughly 880,000 customers in the New Jersey area. Since 2012, the company has operated a transfer station, but Mazza Recycling has expanded recently with the construction of a material recovery facility (MRF).

The design and operation of Mazza Recycling’s Tinton Falls MRF earned it the 2021 Recycling Facility of the Year award from the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), Arlington, Virginia. Its 70,000-square-foot building features the latest technology and equipment and uses positive sorting, making it one of the most modern MRFs on the East Coast. The single-stream MRF was designed to process roughly 26 tons per hour, but the MRF is more than maximizing its capabilities, processing an estimated 38 tons per hour.

Staying true to operations

Jimmy Mazza, president and CEO of Mazza Recycling and the second generation of the Mazza family to own the company, says cost-effectiveness was a key consideration in designing the MRF. “Whether we’re crushing concrete, shearing metal, baling paper and plastic or grinding wood, everything that we do we look to do in the most cost-effective and efficient way to give ourselves an advantage and pass that advantage to our customers,” he says.

The leadership team at Mazza Recycling admittedly had no experience designing a MRF with all the bells and whistles available today, but Mazza says his team is used to starting from scratch, sometimes with no previous experience to serve as a guide.

“It was fresh eyes all around,” he says. “But that’s something we’re used to.”

Mazza Recycling entered the roll-off business with the same set of fresh eyes several years ago, but Mazza says the company’s leaders know how to ask the right questions and find the right people to get involved.

“We make a bunch of mistakes until we figure it out and just kept at it and kept at it,” he says. “And I guess that’s how we learn; we just do it, we make the mistakes, we fix them, and we move forward,” Mazza adds.

Plant Operations Manager Carlos Batista, who previously worked for Van Dyk Recycling Solutions and helped install the processing system at the MRF, says no one was afraid to ask questions during the project. “[I]f someone didn’t have the answers right away, they would find someone who did,” he says.

Construction on the MRF began in June 2020. Mazza Recycling partnered with Van Dyk, Norwalk, Connecticut, on the project—something Mazza says is ironic because Mazza Recycling’s relationship with Van Dyk began when Mazza decided not to purchase a baler from the company many years ago.

“We were shopping around for a baler, and they didn’t get the deal with us, but they always answered the phone when we had questions,” Mazza says. “So, it started with a missed sale.”

Best of the best

From the beginning, Mazza says he knew he wanted the MRF to be outfitted with the best equipment and most up-to-date technology available.

“I’m a firm believer in getting the best equipment … being ahead of everyone else in terms of efficiencies of how it runs,” he says. “And what that means for the plant is you’re controlling your costs.” Mazza says while this approach generally involves a considerable upfront investment, it’s done in the hopes of reaping benefits down the road.

Mazza Recycling seems to be benefiting from that approach, considering it has been able to push its processing capacity well beyond the constraints of the system’s design. Mazza says his company has been able to get the most—and then some—out of its MRF because of the equipment it selected. “We know who we are and how we do things,” he says. “We sort of push everything to the limit. We put a lot of hours on our machines and get the most we can out of them.” That’s how Mazza Recycling has operated, and that was the plan all along going into the design of the MRF.

Mazza says he spent countless months researching what types of machinery would perform the best. “We visited a ton of facilities. We did our homework [and] we really put a tremendous amount of effort in that upfront planning,” he says. “When it was time to sign contracts for the equipment, we were happy and we were confident.”

On the line

The MRF includes five optical sorters, nonwrapping screens, an elliptical separator, magnets and other equipment. The degree of automation also drastically reduced Mazza Recycling’s reliance on human labor.

Mazza says the system is constructed in a straight line, as well, avoiding any turns in the flow of materials.

“[S]pending the money on the optics, putting them in line and having them do that heavy lifting is really the main difference here,” he says. “There’s one person on each line. And that’s all we need.” Mazza says the employees on the paper and container lines serve as quality assurance. “They check the work of the machines.”

The MRF also uses equipment that Mazza says some operators might see as optional, such as a drum feeder. “The way the drum feeder liberates the material and makes it so that it just has that consistent flow from the start gives your presort guys the best chance to get out any undesirables,” he says.

“I like to say that the system is designed knowing that people are going to put things in here that don’t belong, and the system can handle them.”

The system’s ballistic separator serves as a polishing screen, Mazza says. “It’s at the end of our paper line, and it does a fantastic job of being that final piece that cleans out the last little bit of [small, shredded] fiber” and plastic film he explains.

The Tinton Falls MRF keeps up with the high volume of processing in part because of the machinery selected but also because of the way Mazza Recycling prioritizes preventive maintenance.

“This is a new system, but we absolutely still need to be focused on preventative and corrective maintenance,” Batista says. “We may have things that we can wait for down the line, but most of the things we get done.”

He notes that just because a system is new doesn’t mean preventive maintenance isn’t necessary to keep it running at its best. Batista says the system gets a full clean from top to bottom every weekend in addition to smaller scale cleaning regimens that happen with each shift.

“It’s really just important to be able to dial into what works for each machine,” he says.

The common goal

In addition to the business potential that the MRF provides Mazza Recycling, the company wanted to provide a much-needed service to the community. Mazza says the local communities needed a comprehensive MRF like the one in Tinton Falls.

“[T]here was a lack of capacity for single-stream recyclables … to be handled in an economic way,” Mazza says. “The communities that we live in that we service were paying rates far above market value.”

Since the MRF has been operational, the team at Mazza Recycling uses it to continue to educate the community. “The relationship between the facility and the community that it is going to service is very important. And it needs to be a strong link.”

The author is conference producer for the Recycling Today Media Group. She can be contacted at lrathmell@gie.net.