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MRF operators should ‘make the most’ of valuable data

Analysis of data submitted by operators of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) under new sampling and reporting regulations shows the industry has, on the whole, stepped up to the challenge of measuring the quality of input and output tonnages, according to Axion Consulting.

Commenting on the first quarterly data set, recently published by WRAP for October to December 2014, the resource recovery specialist’s team observed that the majority of MRFs ‘have been well prepared’ with ‘good quality equipment and sorting stations’.

“This is great news and shows that MRFs have developed well over time and are becoming more like manufacturing sites where materials quality is all-important. This has implications for reprocessors for whom higher yield is critical to their businesses,” said Axion Senior Engineer, Richard McKinlay who urged MRF operators to ‘get the most out of the data’ that can help to identify efficiency optimisation opportunities in their plants.

Axion’s evaluation of publicly-available data submitted by more than 90 MRFs in England and Wales for the final quarter of 2014 revealed that the majority have demonstrated sortation of the minimum sample sizes at the required frequency.

Richard continued: “While there are some anomalies in the data, considering this is the first round of reporting, the industry appears to have been done very well and this level of effort should be acknowledged. Displaying the confidence levels is really beneficial – it demonstrates that sampling is not an exact science and you cannot report a single figure to represent the composition of a waste stream.”

However, he cautioned that the data relies on accurate sorting, which can be difficult, especially in mixed waste streams. “Ensuring that samples are truly representative can be challenging and, in our opinion, the sample sizes outlined in the MRF Regulations are still quite small. It would be helpful to see if there is any scope to increase sample sizes in the future.”

Richard added: “As this data is very valuable to MRFs, they should ensure they make good use of it and not just see it as a reporting obligation; for example, it can be used to determine underperforming sorting units or identify material streams where additional value can be recovered. Our teams work with MRF operators to improve separation efficiencies of sorting equipment, as well as design plant modifications and expansions to recover maximum value from the infeed material.”

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.

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