Scientific Transfer

Perhaps the most involved and time-consuming aspect of designing a transfer station is choosing the right equipment. High overhead, small margins and an ever-increasing market mandate that the inner workings of a transfer station be efficient and of high quality. Because downtime doesn't just equate to a financial fiasco - it quickly can become a societal crisis.

Choosing the equipment needs of a large-scale operation, such as the new Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station, a 135,000 square-foot facility in Sacramento, Calif., can be a daunting task. But leaving important decisions to gut instinct can prove financially fatal. Consequently, Shawn Guttersen, vice president of business development for the facility's managers, BLT Enterprises, Oxnard, Calif., drew on his company's expertise when he began equipping the new site.

Determining Needs BLT originally was hired by Sacramento to design and construct its materials recovery facility (MRF), as well as handle construction, transfer, processing, transport and disposal. To determine the facility's equipment needs, Guttersen says BLT surveyed Sacramento's and the surrounding area's demographics to determine the approximate daily waste stream.

Based on this, BLT estimated 1,200 tons per day would be generated by Sacramento's customers - 45 percent residential, 45 percent commercial, 10 percent self-hauling. City officials also expected a volume increase of 2 percent per year.

"The tons processed per day is the driver for the size of the building and materials recovery facility (MRF)," Guttersen says. "Waste generation studies, waste characterizations and the area the facility is located are just a few factors that also must be considered."

Armed with their stats, BLT's owners traveled extensively, reviewed the design of several facilities and sketched out exactly what they wanted to incorporate into the Sacramento facility. Mayfran International, Cleveland, Ohio, then was asked to incorporate these designs - starting with the most expensive elements and working their way down - into Sacramento's facility.

"Mayfran was chosen because we have its equipment [belts, sorters and screens] in our other plants," Guttersen says. "Mayfran also has design flexibility. We weren't looking for a 'cookie-cutter' design."

One consideration was the necessity to haul trash 140 miles to a Reno, Nev., landfill. This became the facility's highest single cost. Disposal is subcontracted to Lockwood regional landfill owned by Waste Management Inc., Houston, which has the least expensive tipping fees in the area - about $12 per ton, Guttersen says. "Because we transport MSW more than 100 miles away, we needed equipment that could handle the maximum payload and still last under waste operating conditions."

To get the best possible vehicle for the least possible cost, Guttersen took bids from truck manufacturers. The competitive bidding process eventually yielded two manufacturers. But rather than merely accept the lowest bid, Guttersen set three criteria to be met before a company would earn his business.

"We procured the trucks to vendors and allowed them to bid on the semi's and trailers," he says. "Ultimately, our decision was based on the weight of the truck, the manufacturer's delivery schedule, then price. The weight of the vehicle used to haul trash to the landfill determines how much payload you can haul. A lower weight allows you to haul more payload."

The number of vehicles Guttersen purchased also was based on the tons of trash Sacramento was expected to process daily, which was comparable to BLT's other facilities. Eventually, Guttersen purchased 38 Kenworth trucks for the Sacramento facility. But this was just the tip of the equipment iceberg. BLT also had to bid other vehicles, such as refuse trailers and skid loaders.

The company eventually purchased 35 Western possum belly style trailers primarily because the manufacturer met his design specifications, had a tight delivery schedule and were priced right. He also purchased three Peerless live floor trailers.

Then Guttersen chose five Case XT skid loaders and five Clark Lift forklifts based on their performance at other BLT facilities and because they are fitted with small catalytic converters, which helps Sacramento comply with California's air quality requirements.

A Caterpillar 312 Excavator was chosen because it could sort commercial loads, as well as handle construction and demolition (C&D) debris.

Guttersen has three sorting lines inside the facility manned by 50 sorters, three recycling lines and three screens, which separate office mix, glass, aluminum and plastics. BLT also operates a mobile sweeping machine and a baler manufactured by Enterprise Baler Co., Santa Ana, Calif., which is used to compact recyclables.

Experience Counts Big When focusing on a wheel loader, Guttersen based his purchase on his experiences in outfitting other BLT facilities and did not request bids.

"We wanted a Cat 950 Wastehandler [because of our experience] with Caterpillars' equipment," he says, noting that BLT's other operations are a daily test market for product. "[The] Caterpillar equipment filled a specific niche. Anything that we have operating at this [Sacramento] facility comes with a stamp of approval from other facilities."

Overall, Guttersen says his philosophy in choosing Sacramento's equipment was to rely on the proof of tested products while looking at new technology. "We tried to make some upgrades, such as in our screens, but we weren't trying to re-invent the wheel," he says.

Additionally, he suggests equipment buyers without experience pick up information from trade journals and trade shows to help them take advantage of multiple vendors and compare pricing and equipment options.

"Trade journals put the news in front of the industry on a consistent basis and keep us on track," he says. Networking also can help. The waste industry benefits from being a close-knit marketplace, Guttersen says. By talking with peers and manufacturers' representatives, equipment buyers can keep in touch with new products.

In the end, Guttersen believes relying on his own and his colleagues' experiences helped him properly equip the Sacramento facility to handle its daily and future trash volume. And, he already has proof.

Sacramento's trash volume originally was anticipated to increase 2 percent per year. However, Guttersen already is seeing a 4 percent increase this year.

"The design capacity for the facility is 3,000 tons a day, so we're equipped for the growth," he says, "although we may need one more wheel loader and additional labor."

Knowing how to choose transfer station equipment is every bit as important as the equipment itself. Here are BLT Enterprises' Shawn Guttersen's tips on tackling the task - regardless of your facility's size.

1. Choose equipment that performs well at other sites. Let knowledge and hands-on experience with equipment you operate at other sites work for you.

2. Draw on personal experience - your own and your colleagues'. For example, to outfit Sacramento's facility, Guttersen relied on his company president, Bernie Huberman, who has a heavy equipment background.

3. Choose durable and high-quality equipment. You want equipment that can stand the rigors of working in a rough environment.

4. Review the manufacturer's experience and reputation in the industry.

5. Make sure the equipment fits the specific needs of your application. Although a piece of equipment may be durable, if it doesn't fit your facility, it's useless. Some loaders may not have the turning radius you need, or the weight might be too heavy. Consider all your needs.

6. Examine warranties and maintenance cost. Warranties are different for all pieces of equipment, so make sure they work for you and last long enough.

7. Evaluate price. This speaks for itself, but also think of price in terms of maintenance and product longevity.

8. Review the manufacturer's delivery schedule. Sometimes schedules can be custom-built. But generally, manufacturers have a set lead-time in delivering equipment. You may be surprised that some expect you to wait four to six months for your equipment.

9. Find a flexible manufacturer. You want a manufacturer to meet your design specifications.

10. Consider the location of your regional or local distributor/supplier. You don't want to have to wait for parts coming from across the country when equipment breaks down or needs maintenance. Instead, look for local support and service.

Amount of refuse processed: 1,500 tons per day

Sources of wastes and percentage they represent: 45 percent residential, 45 percent commercial, 10 percent self-hauling.

Number of employees: Approximately 70

Service area: Sacramento County

Local tipping fees: The city of Sacramento pays $35 per ton. Commercial and self-haul customers pay $38.50 per net ton.