Every recycled commodity is a story. In fact, processing facility operators are writing new chapters every day. Lessons learned be-come the springboards to new methods, increased efficiencies and ultimately more profit.
Four of those new chapters follow, each spiced with the experiences from the past. While every story is different, they all contain a common element: innovative people aimed at improving their operation.
Prepping Paper In The Desert McKinley Recycling, Albuquerque, N.M., is on a mission to process mixed office paper and old corrugated cardboard (OCC) into the cleanest possible feedstock for its parent company's mill, McKinley Paper Co., Prewitt, N.M.
Just opened in June, this is the second recovered fiber plant owned by Australia-based Amcor in the United States.
McKinley Re-cycling of Phoenix also supplies the mill, which makes linerboard from the OCC. The of-fice paper is sold separately.
To ensure quality paper with low processing costs, McKinley Recy-cling installed two fiber sorting systems and a baler infeed conveyor.
"We were looking for something that could process primarily OCC and office paper," says David Anderson, general manager.
OCC is separated mechanically from the office paper using an incline conveyor to feed into an OCC Sep-arator, manufactured Bulk Handling Systems, Eugene, Ore., which separates the smaller paper from the OCC.
Next, fines and contaminants are removed by a Debris Roll Screen, also made by Bulk Handling, on the office paper sort line. Bottle caps, dirt and other debris are shaken out of the paper, according to Anderson. Then, the office paper is sorted by hand into different grades.
The processing capacity is 20 tons per hour (tph) and the equipment fits nicely into the 30,000-square-foot building which stands on six acres.
McKinley Recycling employs 25 people and runs one eight-hour shift daily. Due to the mechanized sorting system, Anderson doesn't have to maintain a large sorting staff and thus saves on overhead costs. How-ever, as the paper volume increases, more staff will be added, Anderson notes.
OCC is baled and loaded onto rail cars for transport to the company's mill. The office paper is sorted into "computer printout," "white ledger" and "office paper" categories before baled.
Although just getting started, An-derson is pleased that there have been no quality problems. "So far, so good," he says.
As for the office paper and OCC sources, Anderson says they primarily work with print shops, offices and manufacturers throughout New Mexico. McKinley provides some collection service using Bobtails and tractor trailers.
Independent haulers also supply the facility.
The operation is designed to keep the mill's raw ma-terial costs to a minimum, Ander-son says.
MRFing In The Mountains South Lake Tahoe Refuse company, a multi-million-dollar collection and processing operation, has provided service for the resort hills of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado, Calif., and the casino-laden Douglas County, Nev., since 1962.
This long-term relationship be-tween the customer and hauler proved vital to the areas' compliance with California AB 939. Working hand-in-hand with South Lake Tahoe Refuse, the cities developed a plan to meet the 25 percent recycling requirement by 1995. Douglas County also chose to work with the California cities and to offer recycling opportunities through the company.
The challenges to this partnership were many: curbless, hilly terrain; seasonal residents; and a customer base that spanned two states with differing attitudes on recycling.
To overcome the glitches, the city of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado and Douglas County formed the South Lake Tahoe Waste Management Auth-ority, a regulatory governing panel established to oversee the management of the cities' and county's solid waste and recycling program. A voting representative from each of three service areas dictates any service change, and the vote must be unanimous.
The board members agreed with South Lake Tahoe Refuse general manager, Jeff Tillman's proposal of conducting a feasibility study on the options to comply with AB 939.
The study evaluated two recycling methods: curbside collection of multiple materials and a "dirty" material recovery facility (MRF). The dirty MRF option was selected by the authority, in part, because of an "unlimited" service agreement with the California resort areas which allows households to throw as much refuse away as they choose, a tactic designed to discourage illegal dumping in the forests.
Also, due to the area's "unsteady," seasonal customer base that required easy refuse collection, Tillman and the authority concluded that a dirty MRF system would work the best, "guaranteeing 100 percent participation," according to Tillman.
An added bonus to choosing the dirty MRF system was that it would allow the company to re-spond to changing market de-mand for material.
In 1995, the company invested $2 million to build and equip the MRF while its 30,000-household customer base extended the current franchise agreement 25 additional service years. Tillman believes that the guaranteed tonnage will cover the company's investment.
In the summer, vacationers generate 350 tons per day (tpd), requiring two daily shifts. However, in the winter, the pace slows to 150 tpd and one operating shift.
What Tillman refers to as "a simple MRF," is actually 28,000-square-feet of building and processing equipment on a five-acre site. After visiting other MRFs for brainstorming, Tillman installed a sorting line with bunkers and purchased an HRB 918 two-ram model baler, which is used for all recyclables.
To collect the refuse from the 32-gallon residential containers, Tillman maintains a fleet of seven four-wheel drive, one-ton fork trucks to traverse the hilly and snowy terrain.
Tillman also operates with Peterbuilt 42-yard front-loaders with Maxon bodies. Back at the MRF, the 4WD trucks empty the contents onto an open floor and a front loader pushes the materials onto an incline conveyor.
During meetings and through on-line training, employees are instructed on which materials to pick out. Currently, employees hand-sort corrugated cardboard, old newsprint, magazines, glass bottles, three types of plastic, aluminum and tin cans.
On the floor, they sort out ferrous metals including white goods and steel, in addition to wood waste and construction and demolition debris.
Additional pieces of equipment - such as small conveyers to transport plastic into drop boxes - are being added to give the cities more opportunities to maximize recovery. "This opens up two extra bunkers for sorting more paper products," Tillman says. "Allocating these bunkers for plastic was an inefficient use of space because it took a while to fill up."
After all the sorting is complete, bales are prepared and delivered to various end users or brokers. Residue - food waste, non-recyclables and unrecoverable materials - are packed and transported to the Story County (Nev.) Regional Landfill, where the company has a 60-year disposal contract.
The MRF uses an Amfab TransPak pre-load compactor (Harris Waste Management Group Inc., Peachtree City, Ga.). According to Tillman, the compactor has eliminated the necessity of heavy duty trucks.
"We've gone from 45 minutes loading time per truck to only five minutes," he says. The new system packs 24 tons per load, greatly reducing landfill trips.
So far, Tillman says the diversion rate has hit a 28 percent high - a percentage achieved without any customer rate increases. As for the future, Tillman says they must "regroup and discuss the plan to reach 50 percent recycling by the year 2000."
In addition to setting sights on a wood waste mulching project, he reports that South Lake Tahoe Refuse will continue to look for new and unusual items to pull from the waste stream.
"We've found pine needles make great erosion control material," he says. "We bale them and place them around Lake Tahoe as a substitute for hay. The problem is supply can't keep up with demand."
Processing, Canadian-Style While planning to expand operations, Salish Disposal, a 200-tpd combination transfer station and recycling facility based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, set goals to increase efficiency and reduce pollution.
This construction and demolition (C&D) waste and municipal solid waste processor originally used a pair of diesel-powered, hydraulic excavators equipped with buckets to move and load material onsite, but that method, according to co-owner Don Mayhew Jr., generated fumes. "Here in the valley, we are concerned about air quality," he says.
Also, Salish needed to streamline its workforce of six manual laborers into a more productive shift.
To minimize pollution, Mayhew and his partner, Murry Blackham, purchased three electric-powered Builtrite Model 2100, pedestal-mounted material handlers from Northshore Manufacturing, Two Harbors, Minn., to pick, sort and load out the incoming waste.
"There would be virtually no fumes generated and the motors would be quieter, " Mayhew says.
To further improve the handlers' ability to pick and sort, the manufacturer provided a special grapple which rotates to allows operators to grab and sweep material on the tipping floor.
To maximize recovery rates, Salish's pickups are routed to segregate material within the packer truck - a process that makes sorting on the tipping floor faster and more efficient. After the waste is dumped onto the tipping floor, two of the handlers will pick the pile apart to grab the recyclables (wood waste, cardboard, paper and some industrial-grade plastics and metal) and set them into separate piles. The remainder - all the non-recyclables - is passed to the third handler which, in turn, loads containers designated for landfill delivery.
Because the Vancouver-area's water table is high, landfill space is at a premium. Therefore, material that cannot be recycled at Salish is sent to a landfill in Roosevelt, Wash.
Salish reports excellent recovery rates - as high as 90 percent for much of the C&D waste processed. "We see a good deal of wood and other C&D waste through this facility," says Mayhew.
The shredded material is sold to Canadian Forest Products for manufacturing pressed board. The roofing material is processed in a trommel screen where the gravel is shaken off the shingles, drops through the screen and is sent for reuse in new shingle manufacture.
Similarly, concrete is pulled out, run through a crusher and then sold for road base material. The rebar is separated magnetically and recycled.
Since becoming fully operational in May 1997, the results have been impressive, Mayhew says. "We were able to reduce the manpower by half, yet we still saw an upturn in processing capability. We upped our production by about 60 tpd, even with the reduced workforce."
Salish's future looks as promising as the operation itself. "We built this site with expandability in mind," he says. "We currently run six days a week, 12 hours a day. However, we hope to bring some additional haulers on board which should get us up to a 24-hour-a-day operation."
A Glassy Operation Glass Recycling Group (GRG), Salt Lake City is able to cost-effectively turn contaminated waste glass into a salable product which might soon be used to make kitchen countertops that look like marble.
GRG is supplying Columbia University, New York, with processed glass for research and development of such a product, according to Richard Leonard, GRG's principal.
The company has set up shop inside Western Fiberglass' plant in Salt Lake where it will be recycling local waste glass which Western Fiberglass will use to make fiberglass. GRG has developed a glass grinding system that can be used by any MRF, Leonard says.
The system allows GRG to screen paper and other contaminants from the glass, producing a usable product for multiple applications, including pottery, partitions and as a cement substitute.
Next, Leonard plans to take this mobile pulverizing system into communities. "From the start, we needed something portable," he says. "One problem with recycling glass has been the expense of setting up facilities, and the expense of transporting the glass to that facility.
"The shipping costs just eat the profits due to the weight of the glass," he continues. "We decided to develop a system which could be set up in every community, however it is needed," he explains. "The whole process can fit on a 40-foot trailer."
The system allows GRG to not only process glass bottles, but plate and windshield glass. For fine grind, the processing capacity is five tph and 15 tph for cullet. GRG added the equipment earlier this year and so far, it is processing 60 tons per month (tpm). Leonard hopes that figure will go to 100 tpm soon.
"New end uses of waste glass are being identified continually. We want to be able to provide these new uses with a clean usable product," says Leonard. Soon, GRG will be grinding local waste glass for Owens Corning. With the contamination issue nearly moot, the residentially collected glass now is fair game.
Leonard hopes to link up with MRFs and municipally-owned drop-off sites for more container glass. GRG has taken a step in that direction by establishing a drop-off site on its parking lot for container glass delivered by independent haulers. Leonard hopes that more MRFs will be interested in supplying GRG with glass residue rather than paying to landfill it. Local tip fees are $22 per ton.
In addition to continuing the research and development with Columbia, targeting hotels in Las Vegas for container glass collection is next on the list, says Leonard. Also, CRT screen recycling is a possibility. A facility in Eloy, Ariz., at another Western Fiberglass is planned.
"I hope to move glass recycling forward by lowering costs, increasing efficiency and providing income to each MRF that recycles glass," Leonard says.