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Chicago MRF Upgrades to Faster, Cleaner System

Article-Chicago MRF Upgrades to Faster, Cleaner System

A Chicago-area MRF leaped forward on its planet-saving goals on Wednesday as it started up a new $8.5-million system that will lift recycling output by 40 times over current production levels.

Alan Handley, CEO of Lakeshore Recycling Systems, says that prior to the new installation, he had only about eight employees working in two hand-sort shifts to produce about five tons per day at the Forest View facility. With the new 40,000-sq.-ft. system, built by Machinex, Handley says he will have 65 laborers monitoring a mostly automated system that will harvest and produce up to 200 tons of recycled material per day. He says the company has been running tests and training for the past couple of weeks to learn the new sensor technology and computerized systems.

“Just with the tests, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in speed and capabilities, particularly with the self-separating,” he says. “A typical hand-pick line might be 60 percent effective at diversion, and we were seeing levels at about 96 percent, with only 4 percent diversion. It’s also intuitive, such that if we get a large load of cardboard, we make some minor adjustments and it can handle that load efficiently, and then go back to single-stream by just hitting a few buttons.”

The new system includes advanced sorting technologies, such as a series of discs screen separators to sort cardboard and newspapers and a finishing screen to increase the quality on mixed fibers. An optical sorter sorts PET bottles. Also included into the system are ferrous and a non-ferrous separators to sort metal containers, a baler for plastic film, and a glass cleanup system. The system has a capacity of 22.5 tons per hour.

"Machinex is extremely proud of the results of this project and we are especially very pleased with the confidence shown by the Lakeshore management team. Our flexibility, our listening, and our responsiveness put them in confidence with us, and as always we ensured that the design of the system was meeting their needs”, Chris Hawn, Machinex North American Sales Manager, said in a statement.

The Closed Loop Fund, which works with public and private entities that work to promote pure recycling efforts, provided a small loan to assist Lakeshore with the purchase of the new system. Lakeshore runs five MRFs in north Chicago without owning a landfill, and has a company goal of total waste diversion. The company serves all 605 public schools in Chicago, eight colleges, and serves businesses and residences in cities such as Highland Park, Winnetka, Riverwoods, Skokie and Evanston.

Handley says running a recycling business with no landfill safety net is especially challenging in a time of low commodity and oil prices, but that sustainability is more important. “While we haven’t made as much money as we could have, we have a lot of business because of our recycling message to the customer,” he says. “Landfills are not infinite or ecologically friendly, and the more we can keep out of there, the better it is for the community, and the planet.”

Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, says upgrading MRFs to incorporate automated systems and modern technology will help the region reach recycling goals. The agency, which represents municipalities in north Chicago, has a goal of improving the current recycling rate of 48 percent to at least 60 percent.

“We can do a better job if we can get the word out more, and especially if we can reduce the amount of contaminants,” Willis says. “It’s hoped that we can use these new MRF technologies to produce cleaner bales, which should satisfy China’s needs under Operation Green Fence. We’re always going to have cycles of up-down commodities, but we’re not going to stop recycling programs. These new facilities are better equipped to improve processing.”

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