Forcefully Creating a Recycling Landscape

Over the centuries, markets for products have developed from demand and supply.  It is a simple concept.  Somebody wants something and another person supplies it.  However, in today’s ‘environmentally-friendly’ age, politicians are desperately trying to create a market for recycled materials, as reported by PRW.

Bunting Cross Belt Magnet at VulcanisRecycling is an age-old concept and even Romans reclaimed and recovered metal to sell.  The issue is not as much about recycling as it is about market forces and today’s disposable society.  It must not be forgotten that many of the reclaimed materials, such as metal, have been successfully recycled and traded for hundreds of years, but there is now a batch of materials that have no natural recycling market.

The standard way to handle post-consumer waste is to collect pre-sorted materials (eg a mix of metal, glass, plastic and paper), transport this to a Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) and then separate those materials.  Separation occurs by hand by pickers and mechanically (eg ferrous metal is recovered using Magnetic Separators and non-ferrous metal are recovered using Eddy Current Separators).  There are companies who want to purchase the metals, but what about the other materials?

Glass is another material that has been recycled for years (Note:  the milk bottle in the UK was one of the most successful reuses of a material that has now all but disappeared) and the process is proven and is very successful.  Sadly, there is little value to the recovered glass, but there is an outlet.

There used to be a market for second hand paper with small businesses collecting paper on the streets in the 1980s.  Such a market no longer exists.  Recovered paper is used to produce many different products, but the actual value of the recovered paper is minimal.

Plastic is a problem.  The way plastic containers are made means that often they contain different types of plastic that make it almost impossible to recycle.  It has a high calorific value and so is ideal to burn, but many do not deem this to be ‘environmentally-friendly’.  It is used to produce some plastic products (eg benches) but there are only so many of these that can be manufactured.  And, there is no true value for this reclaimed plastic.

By going back to the initial statement that markets develop from supply and demand, then there are serious issues regarding the viability of recycling specific materials.  The politicians believe that by imposing targets and fines, then this will create a market, but will that really be the case?  Technology and a desire to use reclaimed materials such as plastics will create the market, not politicians.  If companies producing plastic materials fail to develop techniques and processes to use recovered plastics and also change the design of the plastic products to enable easier recycling, then the real market for the product will not exist.  In mid September, the UK’s largest waste and recycling exhibition RWM is being held at the NEC in Birmingham and it will be interesting to see how many politicians who are proposing and implementing these new recycling initiatives will be present.  By speaking with primary producers, recyclers and equipment suppliers, maybe they will gain a better understanding of the challenges.

In essence, maybe the politicians need to rethink the strategy.

Concerns Regarding the Aluminium Recovery Rate in the UK

As reported by letsrecycle.com, there have been concerns raised about the shortfall in the amount of aluminium recovered in the 2nd quarter of 2015 in the UK.  As this follows similar poor figures for the 1st quarter, there is a fear that this trend may continue for the remainder of the year.

The timing of the announcement could not have been better with the UK’s largest recycling exhibition, RWM 2015, being held at the NEC in Birmingham between the 15th and 17th September 2015.

Although the various bodies provide differing explanations for the fall in the aluminium packaging recovery rate, there has been no mention of investment in recycling facilities and technology.  At RWM, there will be a wide range of internationally developed and manufactured technology on display, including equipment like the Eddy Current Separator whose primary function is to separate and recover non-ferrous metals such as aluminium.

Bunting Eddy Current Separator-5

Although manual picking and selection still has a part to play, automated separation of the aluminium packaging is the only way to maximise separation and recovery.  Operations with only pickers should consider investing in an Eddy Current Separator to recover the aluminium and an Overband Magnet to separate the steel.  This would then allow the pickers to focus on more challenging material identification and selection such as different plastic types.

Also many plants have been operating for a long period of time and technology that was purchased at the plant conception is either under-performing or has been replaced with new and better separation technology.

It will be interesting to see how many operators of and those responsible for investment and procurement in recycling plants will visit the RWM exhibition.  We hope that the aisles will be flooded with people.

Hopefully, the discussion about the latest aluminium packaging recycling rates will move away from how data is anaylsed and presented towards what needs to be done to improve the efficiency of our existing recycling facilities.

Bunting Magnetics will be on stand 5T152-V153

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