After digesting CIWM’s report into C&I waste, Steve Almond, sales engineer at TOMRA Sorting UK, says that the UK waste industry needs to focus on the way it deals with this waste stream to really achieve recycling success. CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
Fewer things have made me happier at work over the past couple of weeks than reading and digesting CIWM’s latest report into Commercial and Industrial Waste in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The report’s message is loud and clear – the UK waste industry needs to focus on the way it deals with commercial and industrial (C&I) waste to really achieve recycling success. This message rings true to both my personal views and echoes TOMRA Sorting’s experiences of this evolving, yet often neglected, material stream.
With the CIWM report predicting that 58m tonnes of C&I waste is likely to be generated by 2020, the potential for the treatment of this significant waste stream is easy to see.
“By focusing on establishing a solid infrastructure for C&I waste recovery and treatment, the industry can take advantage of the significant growth potential of this market and, in my mind, there’s no doubt that sensor-based sorting is has a key role to play in delivering commercially viable treatment options for this complex input material”
However, the report forecasts that, unless new projects are put forward in the next 12-24 months, there is likely to be a shortfall in waste treatment capacity in the UK and Ireland of up to 15m tonnes. This simply highlights just how massively overlooked and undervalued the C&I waste stream really is.
By focusing on establishing a solid infrastructure for C&I waste recovery and treatment, the industry can take advantage of the significant growth potential of this market and, in my mind, there’s no doubt that sensor-based sorting is has a key role to play in delivering commercially viable treatment options for this complex input material.
Huge improvements have been made in sensor-based sorting technology, enabling MRFs to recover more and more valuable fractions than ever before. Whereas manual or semi-automated recovery techniques for C&I waste typically achieve a 10 -20 percent recovery level, the latest sensor-based technology can help plants recover 70 – 80 percent of material at purity rates of 95 percent. This substantial output is made possible by using technology with a range of detection techniques to achieve the best results, including near infrared (NIR), X-ray transmission (XRT), visual spectrometers (VIS), colour line cameras and metal sensors. The beauty of sensor-based sorting technology is that it can be tailored to complement the overall composition of C&I waste, which can vary significantly depending on the type of business in a given catchment area, and can target different fractions depending on end markets.
This opportunity to achieve this significant recovery rate for high quality fractions will see C&I waste elevated from a waste stream with a high RDF output to one where the bespoke technology enables maximum value to be extracted, including materials such as plastics, woods, paper, cardboard and film for re-sale.
And it appears that the industry is fast waking up to the potential of C&I waste – this year alone, TOMRA Sorting has signed contracts with eight of the UK’s most advanced C&I MRFs to install sensor-based sorting technology. These eight new MRFs alone will process a combined total of 750,000 tonnes of C&I waste. And adopting this latest technology won’t break the bank for C&I MRFs. Yes, initial outlay isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment that is recouped quickly, with a typical payback period of just 12 months.
Finding 15m tonnes of new capacity is no mean feat, but it is all the more achievable with the right infrastructure and the right technology in place. The processing of C&I waste is an exciting and massive potential growth area within the UK and Ireland and MRFs need to embrace the opportunity to meet the shortfalls highlighted in CIWM’s report. Introducing sensor-based sorting technology for this complex material stream is a no brainer, delivering clear commercial, legislative and environmental benefits to the industry.