Customers who make the grade
In these rapidly changing markets, we’ve been focused on assisting our customers to upgrade existing plants while also commissioning new installations that have the flexibility to prepare for the future. Whether it’s a new system from the ground up or existing system enhancements, operators have many options to consider when trying to reach the market’s high purity standards.
Cleaning the paper
We are seeing a major increase in the use of optical sorting to clean up paper, like one of our northeastern customers who installed four new TOMRA optical sorters and our paper magnet for a recent plant upgrade. This customer had a wide range of objectives for its series of plant upgrades, but a critical mission was to clean up its mixed paper. The upgrade has allowed our client to produce some of the cleanest mixed paper and OCC we’ve seen from a MRF. The MRF is consistently below 2 percent on its prohibitives in its mixed paper.
Preparation is key
Intelligent separation (optical sorters, robots, etc.) plays a pivotal role in reducing labor costs and making clean end products.
But for any of this technology to be successful, the material that is fed to it needs to be prepared properly. Optical sorters like a steady consistent “diet” of homogenized, single-layer, similarly sized material. Proper belt speeds, sizing screens, 440 screens, ballistic separators, air systems and other equipment help to prepare the material.
One of our new “prep steps” is our unique sizing deck—a screening process that acts to size and prepare material for downstream separation equipment. This allows both positive and negative sorting processes to be done more effectively, resulting in cleaner material. It’s a true game-changer in plant operation.
DeftAir keeps things stable
Another key piece of preparation equipment is our new DeftAir wind system. DeftAir allows operators to dramatically increase paper quality with intelligent separation while maintaining very high production rates.
The system sits in front of separation equipment and blows a steady stream of air to stop fiber and other lightweight materials from floating as the accelerator belt reaches speeds of 1,000 feet per minute. The combination of stable fiber and high speed ensures the optical sorters achieve maximum sorting efficiency, while the system achieves high production.
Two of our customers on either coast have installed DeftAir to increase the accuracy of their opticals, and several more units are going in.
Battling the film epidemic
Many operators are still running plants designed 10 to 15 years ago for substantial volumes of ONP. The angled screens in these plants were simply not designed for the high volume of lightweight plastic bags seen in today’s stream. The result, endless wrapping and screen cleaning.
Our customers have been upgrading their primary screening packages to specially designed non-wrapping 440 screens for the past three years. We have installed these screens at 24 different sites across North America with more units to come. They decrease our customers’ screen cleaning time from hours per shift to just 5-10 minutes, and so far have gained our customers up to an 85 percent reduction in replacement star costs.
Van Dyk introduces a robot that combines camera detection along with NIR recognition to make the ultimate quality control machine. The combined technologies allow RoBB to make accurate sorting decisions even in less than ideal material streams. With a small footprint, the unit is easily integrated into any sort line. Robustly constructed arm makes up to 70 picks per minute and does not require daily replacement of parts.
Realizing the challenges postconsumer recycling was facing, Republic Services wanted to take a new approach to the greenfield recycling facility it was building in Plano, Texas. The innovative plant design incorporates numerous elements to enhance flexibility while delivering cleaner recovered materials.
To achieve substantially cleaner materials, the Plano facility was designed to do most of its sorting positively. Pulling material out of the processed stream has helped tremendously to reduce prohibitives, especially in the paper grades.
“We’re very pleased with the results of the positive sorting we’re doing here in Plano,” says Operations Manager Guillermo Pabon. “Our material is exceptionally clean, and our customers are very happy with it.”
This allowed the plant to pass an independent, third-party audit that validated just 1 percent contamination in the dirtiest of the paper grades. The use of positive, intelligent sorting has made a tremendous difference in overall material quality.
Another element of the plant that delivers enhanced flexibility for Republic is the incorporation of four fiber bunkers—one for OCC and three others. “Having the four bunkers has been incredibly helpful for us,” says Pabon. “We’re currently separating OCC and three grades of mixed paper; a good, better, best. Because of the way this facility works, even the good consistently has less than 1 percent prohibitives, which is very clean.”
Enhanced material flow
Uniquely, the Plano recycling facility features just one incline screen in the entire plant, and it’s the non-wrapping 440 screen. The screen requires only five to 10 minutes of cleaning daily yet provides an exceptional initial material cut to feed the container and fiber lines.
Another feature of the plant that has been instrumental to its positive sort is the unique sizing deck. This deck better prepares material for intelligent sorting downstream by more effectively creating an even layer of similarly sized material.
"We’re getting exceptionally clean sorts and, again, our customers have been very pleased with how clean the material is.” - Guillermo Pabon, Republic Services
With an eye for efficiency, the plant also is designed with one-touch material handling. This is the case for recovered commodities and for system outthrows. The one-touch design also helps to reduce material contamination throughout the plant.
At the beginning of the container line, the system features the elliptical sorter to float off all film prior to introducing the stream to optical and magnetic intelligent sorting.
“We’re capturing PET, HDPE and PP,” says Pabon. “Three of our seven optical sorters are dedicated to this work. We’re getting exceptionally clean sorts and, again, our customers have been very pleased with how clean the material is.”
Finally, the end of the container line features a loop-track. This is designed so any material that might have been missed is captured and delivered to the appropriate bunker. “At the end of the container line, after the eddy current separator, our second chance line recirculates material to increase our recovery rates. This has proven very effective at reducing missed material,” adds Pabon.
To create a true production environment, the plant also is designed with a mono-platform. All the sorters and the operations manager’s office are on a single level.
“We absolutely love the mono-platform design,” says Pabon. “From our operations cabin, we have a clear view of all the sorters, and it’s a key part of our employee safety protocol.”
The system also was designed to allow for direct baling of commodities that do not need to be processed. Each of the storage bunkers are able to feed either of the system’s two balers, providing complete redundancy.
Overall, the efficiencies designed into Republic’s Plano recycling facility make it a true plant of the future, one that has flexibility, high production and the ability to produce uniquely clean commodities.
Over the past year, Van Dyk also has been expanding our operations to better serve customers.
- Our new Norwalk facility has become fully operational.
- We’ve grown our customer-focused staff.
- Van Dyk University has held more classes.
- Van Dyk Direct has become the standard for many plant operators.
This past year saw the final move from Stamford, Connecticut, to our new, state-of-the-art 150,000-square-foot campus in Norwalk, Connecticut.
The new facility encompasses the technology and testing center; baler rebuild shop; the Van Dyk Direct parts warehouse; Van Dyk University classrooms; engineering and customer support facilities; project management and administrative offices.
We have added four new service technicians to support our growing installation base and an additional controls engineer to assist with our growing work on plant retrofits. An additional two project managers (increasing that department to six) help ensure the continued smooth installation of plant builds and retrofits.
Van Dyk University hosted 11 week-long training programs throughout the past year for baler and optical sorting training. Alumni from these programs have found increased independence in ongoing maintenance and, when necessary, repair of their equipment.
We’ve also seen a rise in the number of customers ordering replacement parts and service kits through Van Dyk Direct. Today about 70 percent of our customers use the online portal to quickly and easily order parts when they need them.
We have conducted over 20 tests in our Test Center. The majority of these tests are our customers bringing their own material to run on our continuous loop system, but we have also had consumer goods companies test for sortability of different packaging. These tests not only help our customers see potential results before purchasing equipment, and consumer packagers design more recoverable packaging, but they also teach us how to design new and better systems for our customers.