Cutting-edge sensor-based sorting technology from TOMRA Sorting has been deployed to boost paper recovery at Ireland’s largest household recycling facility, which is operated by Irish Packaging Recycling (IPR), part of the Beauparc Utility Group. Five TOMRA AUTOSORT units were installed as part of a £2.9 million plant upgrade earlier this year.
The state-of-the art Regional Materials Recovery Facility in Ballymount, Dublin, processes household dry recycling material from approximately 400,000 homes in Dublin and the surrounding areas. 70 per cent of the infeed material is privately collected by Panda Recycling and Greenstar, with the remainder collected by other operators.
The facility is the largest of its kind in Ireland, employs 105 staff, is licensed to process 100,000 tonnes per annum and is currently running at 90 per cent capacity and operating 20 hours a day (two shifts,) five days a week.
Every hour, 20 tonnes of household dry recycling is separated into its constituent parts: two paper grades, cardboard, aluminium, steel and five grades of plastic. Recovered materials are formed into bales which IPR sells to markets around the world.
The upgrade project, which was managed by IPR’s chosen main contractor, McDonald International, included the installation of 37 new conveyors, five TOMRA optical separators, one Nihot density separator, three picking cabins, a complete overhaul of the existing electrical and controls system, upgrading the existing plant control interface and integrating old and new controls into a single system. All new equipment is fully CE certified and the new Siemens ‘ASIsafe’ electrical safety system brings the plant up to a SIL3 (safety integrity level) safety standard.
IPR successfully completed the equipment upgrade in April 2018. To allow for the upgrade, the facility was closed for a five week period from 12th March to 16th April. Despite extremely challenging issues during construction, the project was completed and has since exceeded expectations. Plant throughput has increased by 22 per cent, electricity consumption has reduced by 10 per cent per tonne and the quality and value of final product has improved. IPR has increased recovery rates through better materials handling and the addition of a fibre recovery process to recover small pieces of paper from plant waste.
TOMRA Sorting: the technology provider of choice
Liam Dunne, MRF General Manager at the IPR-operated MRF, comments: “We initially became aware of TOMRA Sorting through trade shows and via feedback from other operators within the industry. Then, when we appointed McDonald International as our main contractor for the turnkey upgrade project, they introduced TOMRA Sorting as their chosen technology partner.”
Prior to TOMRA Sorting’s technology being installed at the plant, two trials were conducted at TOMRA’s automatic sorting test centre at the company’s recycling hub in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany. Customers are invited to test their own material with TOMRA machines, providing comprehensive services for the development of potential sensor-based sorting projects. The test centre is operated by a specialist team of engineers who work directly with customers to develop innovative workflows during the testing process. The sorting systems are calibrated to deliver optimum levels of sorting and recycling for each individual customer’s requirements.
Set in a loop formation and using mechanical pre-preparation equipment often used by customers at their own facilities, the test centre ensures that a customer's operating environment can be accurately simulated. Results from these early tests are then inputted into customers’ new machines, ensuring that their new sorting environment is incredibly efficient from the moment they start using the machine.
The chosen solution for IPR’s Ballymount MRF was five TOMRA units on the paper line – one AUTOSORT unit on the news and PAMs line and three on the mixed paper grades line. A fifth TOMRA AUTOSORT is used for fibre recovery to reduce the plant’s waste.
Liam explains: “I went over to the test facility in Germany twice and TOMRA’s UK team sent various bags of our material to the centre and tried out lots of different combinations. We went through extensive testing before purchasing the equipment. Being able to see what the machines could do before we bought them was invaluable and TOMRA gave us performance guarantees on the material we tested which gave us peace of mind and a comprehensive overview of what to expect once it was installed.”
From manual sorting to automation
By introducing TOMRA equipment the plant is now able to run at 20 tonnes per hour (an increase from 16.5 tonnes per hour) and achieve 98.3 per cent purity on paper grade before the material is hand picked in one of the three new paper picking cabins. IPR is now benefitting from greater efficiencies, reduced labour costs and paper that is far cleaner than before.
Liam comments: “We haven’t quite achieved the new requirements for China’s lower contamination limits, but our goal was to get below 2 per cent contamination and we’re currently at 1.7 per cent. That is before our trained operators pick out any contamination remaining from our three new QC cabins. This has enabled us to increase the number of outlets we export to, but the main thing for us as a business is that as the markets for paper close and the material becomes harder to move, we’re now in a much stronger position to be the last operator in Ireland to be stopped. TOMRA’s equipment has enabled us to increase plant capacity and throughout as well as upgrade our paper by reducing contamination. As a result our paper is now one of the cleanest in the country. What’s more, thanks to the addition of a fifth TOMRA AUTOSORT which recovers fibres from plant waste, we’ve reduced our paper waste by 4 per cent.
“We’ve been very impressed with the experts at TOMRA throughout the entire process. They were heavily involved in design and ideas phase with McDonald International, which really helped. The testing facility was invaluable and having TOMRA’s support in the UK and 24/7 phone coverage is also very useful. We’ve recently signed a service level agreement with them so we’ll benefit from ongoing support to maintain the availability, capacity and recovery performance of our plant.”
Gavin Russell, Sales Engineer at TOMRA Sorting, concludes: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Liam and the team at IPR. The plant is a great example of what automation can achieve when backed by close collaboration between supplier and customer.”