April 14, 2016
Despite the recent controversy associated with a few new mixed MRF facilities, the processing systems do an excellent job of what they are supposed to do: maximize the separation of like materials.
Taken as a whole, mixed MRFs have operated well since their reincarnation in the early 1990s and continued refinement through today. The sorting technology, which has been evolving for the last 25 years, has been proven to work and is reliable. Complete, pre-engineered integrated systems have been available now for years from a growing selection of established companies dedicated to the solid waste industry that can provide planning, engineering, manufacturing, controls, and startup, whether for new facilities, or retrofits of existing older facilities.
With that said, the following conclusions are offered for consideration:
- MRFs have the potential to help communities significantly increase their waste diversion and recycling rates.
- The integration of newer technologies offers a substantial increase in throughput of mixed waste-stream coupled with the ability to recover previously unrecoverable materials and/or materials previously unwanted (i.e., food scraps-organics).
- High tech systems represent a significant investment over more manually intensive and older, less advanced facilities. This has to be balanced and their value thoroughly vetted in the planning stage with an economic proforma that is based on realistic, and in the authors opinion, conservative assumptions and estimates of the volume of recyclables that can be produced, demand for the recycled materials, changes in feedstock, the quality of recyclables that can be recognized, and the value that the market will put on those materials.
- Operators should anticipate that plastic and fibers if commingled with dirty materials and/or mixed in with finished bales of those recycled materials may have a lower value placed on it by the end recycler than as compared to a bale of clean material. Thus, keeping different incoming waste-streams separate, at the front end of the system, if possible, is key in maximizing clean recovered materials and limiting the contamination risk posed by intermingling dirty materials.
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Contact the authors: Bruce Clark and Marc Rogoff
Posted by Diane Samuels at 2:31 pm