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Laser focus on reducing landfill waste: how new automated sorting technologies can boost high-quality glass recovery and cut costs for MSW operators - Remondis, Erfstadt, Germany.

19 September 2017

Glass from MSW

While many countries have implemented glass recycling through separate waste collection, municipal solid waste (MSW) still contains a significant amount of valuable, recoverable glass. Moreover, MSW containing glass can lead to costly repairs of damaged pumps, broken pipes, clogs and other substantial problems during various treatment processes. By recovering glass prior to further handling, operators benefit from reduced operational costs and downtime associated with damages due to glass and other inert material. Landfill and waste incineration costs can also be drastically reduced. The crowning achievement of this technology also enables operators to increase profits by taking advantage of the high-quality, sellable glass recovered from the waste stream.

REMONDIS is a prime example how glass sorting helps improve efficiencies, both operationally and financially. REMONDIS has been a long-standing client and prior to this project had three TOMRA AUTOSORT units and one online analyzer in its processing plants. Always striving to optimize, REMONDIS approached TOMRA Sorting in 2015 with the wish to test this new application. At the time, household waste being processed contained between 3 – 3.5% glass, which lead to higher incineration costs. TOMRA Sorting welcomed the challenge to find a solution to separate glass fractions with maximum recovery quality.

Together, REMONDIS and TOMRA Sorting set out to achieve the following:

  • High recovery of glass (min. 80%)
  • Reduction of disposal costs
  • High quality of recovered glass (> 95%)
  • Glass recovered must be saleable
REMONDIS has extended their existing plant in Erfstadt, Germany to address this problem and introduced a new laser-based solution developed by TOMRA Sorting that separates up to 3,000 tonnes of glass per year through a two-step of optical sorting. To date, the comprehensive solution has reduced the residue fractions for landfill by 75% and cut incineration costs nearly in half. The new plant is currently in test mode, where additional optimizations are being made together with TOMRA technicians. REMONDIS expects the plant to be fully operational by the end of December 2017.

As MSW is pre-treated with bag opening and screening functionality, fractions are split by grain size with a double deck vibrating screen and then sorted into three categories: fine fractions 0-8 mm (e.g. organic, sand), middle fractions 8-60 mm and oversize fractions 60-100 mm (e.g. plastics, cans).

After the screening, the middle fraction containing the highest glass content passes through density separation. The heavy fractions consisting mainly of ceramics, stones, porcelain, glass, metals, and hard plastics are put through the AUTOSORT LASER unit. A combination of laser (LAS) and near-infrared (NIR) detection technologies enable the separation of glass from inert materials. Using a high-performance camera, the COMBISENSE CHUTE unit increases the quality of the glass fraction by separating further impurities. The entire process results in recoverable glass with an extremely high and constant purity of more than 95 percent. The superior quality of the recovered glass enables a stronger marketability and resale in the market.

With the robust and highly efficient TOMRA automatic sorting units, REMONDIS expects a return on investment after three years. Harry Amann, Site Manager for REMONDIS commented on the installation: ”We are very proud of having the first AUTOSORT LASER installed in our plant in Erftstadt. High cost savings and great output quality simplified our plant process. Needless to say, we expect a quick ROI on this project.” What’s more, the reliability and regular maintenance offered by TOMRA Sorting ensures a smooth operation for years to come.