After more than 90 days in operation, the state-of-the-art sortation machinery at Oregon's largest materials recovery facility is working exactly as advertised. With a $1 million infusion from the American Plastics Council, Garten Foundation, a Eugene, Ore.-based, nonprofit organization, began sorting and baling plastic containers with the help of an automated sorting machine manufactured by Nashville, Tenn.-based Magnetic Separations Systems Inc.
Dan Hoagland, Garten operations director, estimates the facility is handling about 30,000 pounds of containers per month, and said the foundation recently contracted with three county collection systems to supply containers to the plant.
The company is sorting six resin types and has a hand-sort bin for other resins, he said.
``It has been very positive, and we are confident that we can go out and contract with anyone for their containers,'' Hoagland said. ``At the same time, we are also confident that we can contract with processors to provide them with baled material on a steady basis.''
Waste containers from Portland, the largest city in Oregon, are not yet coming to the Garten site, but he said there is interest in that idea.
Hoagland said the key to the operation is the MSS BottleSort machine. Without it, operations would be much slower and more labor-intensive.
The Garten operation is a test program for the Washington, D.C.-based APC, and the entire industry, he said. It is a test of what technology can do to make recycling easier, less costly, and more profitable, not only for MRFs, but for processors and end users.
These concerns are shared by original equipment manufacturers that make other kinds of machinery for recycling.
``All our machines are customized for the needs of the specific customer, the kind of material he is using, and many other factors,'' said Jim Glenn, systems vice president for the Cumberland Engineering Division of John Brown Inc., a major maker of plastic processing machinery in South Attleboro, Mass.
``We have modified our entire line of granulators, for instance, to make them able to handle more contamination than they normally would, because post-consumer and post-industrial materials generally have higher contamination levels than virgin materials.''
Cumberland also stressed the importance of having a continuous-flow washing process that links washing and water treatment systems.
``The wash process must remove the hot-melt glue and a number of other substances, and it is very important that the water treatment system be able to handle it efficiently,'' Glenn said.
Derek Vaughan, MSS vice president, said the big push for his company now is to develop sorters capable of separating PVC from a stream of PET containers,
``Much of the machinery for recycling is basically the same as it ever has been,'' he said. ``Granulators are modified and improved, and extruders are improved, but they still do roughly the same things.
``In the case of automated sorters, we are still concentrating on sortation, but we are refining what they do and trying to do things that haven't been done,'' he said.
Vaughan said the company's Vydar system uses low-level X-rays to identify and separate even small amounts of PVC from PET flakes. The system involves many more sensors than the company's other machines, because recyclers demand a high rate of separation of the two resin types.
Since the BottleSort first was introduced in 1991 at Eaglebrook Plastics Inc. in Chicago, MSS has sold more than 30 of the machines, including its first in Japan, this year. The customized system, installed at the Kurimoto Ltd. plant in Sumiyoshi, Japan, can sort PVC, clear PET, mixed-color PET and clear high density polyethylene, as well as separating seven colors of HDPE. The installation in Japan follows the installation of the first automated multiresin system at an MRF at the Laidlaw Waste Systems Inc. facility in Schaumburg, Ill.