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How to future-proof MRF design to maximise plant efficiency

Incorporating ‘future-proof’ design concepts into the layout and operating principles of new Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) is vital if managers are to improve quality and maximise profits from their multi-million pound investments, conference delegates heard.

Planning for expansion, predicting likely changes in feed composition and installing good management information systems are other essential elements for ensuring a MRF can meet future waste management and processing challenges, Keith Freegard told representatives at the recent Paper Recycling Conference Europe, held in Warsaw, Poland.

The conference looked at the challenges and opportunities available for companies involved in the paper recycling industry, including the key issue of infeed quality.

With most paper collected via kerbside co-mingled systems, there’s much greater pressure on primary sorting MRF operators to keep other waste materials, such as plastics, out of their paper streams to ensure high quality output and value for the processing mills. "There’s a great need in this industry to do a more consistent, higher quality job of the infeed sortation as any contaminants can create problems in the pulping process," said Keith, Director of resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting.

In his presentation ‘How to make my recycling plant work better’, he emphasised how clever design, precise knowledge of infeed materials and getting the right skills mix can help MRF operators to extract the most from their process plants and be ready to meet future waste management challenges.

"Efficient design takes account of the specification and mix of waste materials changing over time. Building in expansion space for additional units in the future, such as longer conveyors with enough room to add extra sorting systems, means you don’t have to completely change your plant layout, which incurs more cost and expensive downtime," he explained.

"In-depth knowledge and analysis of infeed materials will aid plant design and layout, and help to plan for and cope with future challenges, such as increased complexity of waste products and more material types being collected for sorting," continued Keith.

"Good management systems are vital in MRFs; if you have a multi-million pound investment and complex sorting process it’s no good asking personnel who used to run the landfill site to operate it. You really have to train them in proper ways of monitoring, managing and controlling plant. We are now in a ‘new era’ where qualified process engineers need to be designing and operating technically-advanced materials resource recovery plants, not just ‘handling waste’."

Highlighting possible solutions and future markets, from developments in sensor-based sorting to consumers’ greener attitudes, Keith concluded: "Big process plants must be designed for flexibility and need proper management. New technological developments should be welcomed – you will need them one day!"

Axion Consulting is part of the Axion Group that develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. The Group works with a wide range of clients, from Government agencies and local authorities to companies in diverse commercial sectors, on the practical development of new processing and collection methods to recover value from waste resources.

Image: Keith Freegard (left) with Axion engineers Richard McKinlay (centre) and Sam Haig

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