Any plastics recycler is only as good as its equipment. And KW Plastics Recycling has a long relationship with industrial shredder maker SSI Shredding Systems Inc.
And so this month, Best Practices takes you to Troy, Ala., to KW, the company founded in 1981 by owners Kenny Campbell and Wiley Sanders. KW topped the 2018 Plastics News ranking of recyclers with 570 million pounds reprocessed in-house.
At first, KW Plastics recycled used car battery cases, returning high-quality polypropylene resin back to the casing manufacturers. Company officials expanded to other materials, looking at plastic packaging that was being thrown away.
In 1993, KW opened a recycling division across the street from its headquarters to handle post-consumer HDPE. Campbell turned to SSI in Wilsonville, Ore., as he researched shredders to prepare the material as the business ramped up. KW bought three SSI shred lines.
“We have changed configurations and models over the years as KW Plastics' needs and preferences changed,” said David Wilson, technical sales at SSI. “As the company has expanded into some new applications, they added additional shredders as they've gone along.”
Three of KW's wash lines are set up to run about 10 tons of material an hour. A smaller line runs 4-5 tons an hour. KW also runs a line to handle wovens.
Campbell said versatility of SSI's equipment and the ability to adapt machinery to KW Plastics' specific applications are some of the main reasons for the long working relationship. Other companies offered “one-size-fits-all” shredders, he said.
“Our wash lines are able to run very high-volume rates, very efficiently, and that's how we're able to keep our costs down, and our SSI equipment plays a very big role in helping us do that,” Campbell said.
One example of the teamwork between the companies came in 2010, when KW wanted to expand its offerings to include a super-sack material.
“Conventional, off-the-shelf shredder technology would never adequately process such a challenging material at sufficient volumes to be acceptable to KW Plastics, but SSI had recently developed the patented Smart Feed Electric Drive technology, which allowed us to process certain materials in new ways, without hydraulics,” Wilson said.
Recyclers are at the forefront of sustainability and “green” manufacturing. They have a tough enough job, especially when prices for virgin resin are low. To perform in Best Practices-style, they need solid, durable and efficient machinery.