Reality check

Features - Metals

SA Recycling uses a new instrument to monitor for metals that are lost to the ASR stream.

March 6, 2014

The recycling industry is always looking for innovative new products that can mine the ferrous and nonferrous metals found in the auto shredder residue (ASR) stream. In spite of the improvement in recovery, scrap yard operators intuitively know that their downstream systems continue to miss metal as they watch potential profits go to the landfill. Now, intuition can be confirmed with hard data.

“That’s why we developed the new Eriez Metal Loss Monitor (MLM),” says Tim Shuttleworth, Eriez president and CEO. “It takes the guesswork out of metal losses, giving users the ability to spot metals that would otherwise be lost. And we have applied smartphone technology to keep operators informed via automatic text and email alerts when hits exceed predetermined thresholds.”

While Eriez proved that the technology worked in the company’s Technical Center in Erie, Pa., its research and development team recognized that putting the technology to work in the field would be the acid test. That’s why installing it for a customer was determined to be critical.

In early 2013, the company heard from several scrap processors that such a tool would be helpful to their operations. One person who expressed a keen interest in the tool was George Adams, chief executive officer of SA Recycling, headquartered in Orange, Calif. SA Recycling, a joint venture owned by New York-based Sims Metal Management and Adams Steel

LLC, Anaheim, Calif., is among the largest scrap recycling firms in the western U.S. The company serves regional and worldwide markets through its more than 50 facilities in California, Arizona and Nevada.

SA Recycling processes millions of tons of scrap each year, including not only metal but also cardboard, paper, glass, plastics and electronics. Its processing operations include shredding, shearing, sorting, baling, torching and auto crushing as well as automobile and appliance decommissioning.

As a full-service ferrous and nonferrous metals recycler, SA Recycling continually strives to improve metal recovery, making it an ideal candidate to test this new technology that monitors metal loss.

Improving recovery

Because SA Recycling emphasizes implementing technological improvements, it was just the sort of company to be among the first to try this new device.

Examples of SA Recycling’s focus on implementing technological innovations at its facilities include the addition of a regenerative thermal oxidizer and chemical scrubber to its metal shredding operations in an effort to control volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. The company claims to be the first company in the scrap metal processing industry to invest in this technology. SA Recycling also added low-NOx (nitrogen oxide) burner technology and dust collectors to its metal shredding operations as well as enclosed its shredder and other material handling and sorting areas. Additionally, SA Recycling recently tested two all-electric yard trucks in partnership with the Port of Los Angeles and Balgon Corp., Harbor City, Calif.

SA Recycling took delivery of the first MLM prototype just before the 2013 Operations Forum, sponsored by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) and held in Long Beach, Calif., in early October 2013. The forum is designed for executives and personnel of scrap recycling facilities who are responsible for safe and efficient operations.

SA Recycling says the new technology began to pay for itself soon after it was implemented when it alerted operators that an excessive amount of metal was being lost in the sorting process.

“A product such as this has been needed for a long time,” Adams says of the device. Without such technology, Adams adds, “We simply don’t know what value is leaking out into the waste stream, and we don’t know when equipment is out of adjustment or needs maintenance until our metal yields are down.

“Now we are aware of how much metal we’re losing in 10-minute increments and can take action immediately,” Adams adds. “And we can know this anywhere on the globe by the software’s Web portal and remote reporting with instant messages.”

The technology is designed to continually count metal losses, giving users the ability to observe the performance of their systems over time. With this technology in place, maintenance issues and required adjustments can be spotted quickly when losses spike. The data gathered also offer beneficial insight needed to properly evaluate whether additional or different separators should be incorporated to reduce metal losses.

Positioning & reporting

By adding the company’s data acquisition and reporting package, shredder operators have opportunities for trend analysis and statistical process control. All data are instantly visible to anyone with the proper security credentials, anywhere and at anytime through the company’s Web portal and remote reporting function. Text alerts are immediately sent through the Web portal to a user’s mobile device when losses rise above an upper control limit Eriez has calculated.

The device and accompanying data acquisition and Web portal can be used once on a final waste conveyor or multiple times throughout the process. For example, if a user has two or three size fractions, the technology can monitor each one. This allows plant staff to identify problems on each fraction size and react quickly. The technology is designed to give users ample warning when something is out of order, not just when metal yields are low and metals have been lost to the landfill.

As one option, the technology can be positioned upstream to provide hand-picking assistance. An optional ink marking system alerts pickers of locations to search for lost metal.

Alternatively, the device can be placed downstream of pickers before the bunker. Downstream positioning gives supervisors the ability to track pickers’ performance, perhaps helping to provide incentives and accurately assess how many pickers are necessary. Metal that passes the monitor triggers an alarm signal (such as a horn or beacon), and the event is recorded in a data file.

“We developed the MLM to give scrap yard managers the knowledge they need to instantly diagnose specific weaknesses in their system,” says Mike Shattuck, Eriez product manager, recycling equipment. “One of the intended goals is to gradually lower the preset threshold and reduce the count of metals escaping the process.”

He adds, “The MLM supports our ongoing efforts and dedication to improving the scrap yard’s grade-recovery curve by providing instant and accurate feedback on metal losses.”

The new technology claims to be the first automatic analytical device designed to help determine the quantity of valuable metal that is passing through a scrap yard unrecovered. It can track the ASR stream for ferrous and nonferrous metals.

Tracking performance over time

In addition to proving real-time alerts, the data acquisition and reporting capabilities log historical information for long-term tracking purposes.

“Data from the MLM can be used with a statistical process control program to generate control charts measuring long-term process improvements as upgrades and equipment adjustments are applied,” Shuttleworth says. “These charts should indicate a steadily declining metal loss over a given period of time.”

With this technology, scrap yard operators can watch how well their yards perform from afar. This gives operators the peace of mind they want, according to Shuttleworth. In addition, it is an easy matter to project the amount of unrecovered metal and determine whether an investment in additional separation equipment could result in greater profits for the yard.

This technology is designed to prevent the disposal of metal-rich fluff, Shuttleworth says. It quickly indicates a processing problem and focuses an operator’s attention upon the necessary action to take and whether the fix has been made. Workers receive real-time feedback daily from the yard as well as historical performance logs. The technology also can make a hand-picking team more effective.

The cantilevered design of the device is well-suited for use with trough and flat conveyor belts, on which it is designed to be installed quickly and easily.

Eriez’s magnetic separation, metal detection, materials feeding, screening, conveying and controlling equipment have application in the process, plastics, rubber, metalworking, packaging, recycling, mining, aggregate and textile industries. The company manufactures and markets these products through 12 international facilities located on six continents.


This article was contributed by Eriez. For more information, call 888-300-ERIEZ (3743) within the U.S. and Canada, visit or email Eriez world headquarters is located in Erie, Pa.