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Midwest facility upgrades plastics sorting capabilities

This article originally appeared on the website of industry publication Resource Recycling.
The original article

A $2 million below-market loan from the Closed Loop Fund is helping a Nebraska company retrofit its materials recovery facility to better target PET and HDPE. The project is the latest such equipment improvement for First Star Recycling.

The Closed Loop Fund announced in January that it has invested in the Omaha-based company, which runs a single-stream MRF in the city.

In an interview, First Star Recycling CEO Dale Gubbels told Resource Recycling the project will address the “bottleneck” in the Omaha MRF, the container line. “It’s really bringing us into the 21st century in terms of our capabilities,” he said.

Container sorting improvements

The retrofit involves installing two optical sorters and bunkers that feed directly to an in-ground conveyor. New Hampshire-based Green Machine is supplying equipment for the project.

The optical sorters will target clear HDPE and PET. The in-ground conveyor will carry sorted recyclables directly to the baler, replacing the use of cages that have to be moved by forklift. Equipment installations will occur in March and April.

The project will yield both quantity and quality benefits on the container line. The line was first installed in 2005 and has relied mostly on hand sorting for plastics. Gubbels noted that the 2007 addition of plastics Nos. 3-7 overwhelmed the MRF container line, resulting in frequent stoppages. Currently capable of sorting about 1 ton per hour, the upgraded container line will tackle about 3 tons per hour, Gubbels said.

Gubbels noted the facility is still accepting 3-7 plastics, and although the market is “not terribly robust,” it’s sending mixed-plastic bales to the recently reopened ReVital Polymers plastics recycling facility (PRF) in Sarnia, Ontario.

Gubbels estimates the company is investing a total of about $2.4 million. That number includes the current retrofit and the installation of a ballistic separator last fall.

First Star Recycling’s bank was prepared to lend money for the project, but when Gubbels explained Closed Loop Fund’s loan terms, the banker “barely let me finish the sentence and said ‘If you don’t do it, you’re crazy.’”

Earlier changes

Last fall, Fiber Star Recycling replaced a star screen with a ballistic screen for the separation of two-dimensional materials from three-dimensional ones. That project was separate from the Closed Loop Fund loan.

“The ballistic screen has proven to be a much better approach for us to deal with separating the containers from the two-dimensional fiber,” he said. “It’s doing a great job on that.”

The company knew it needed to improve the fiber-container separation before it installed the optical sorters on the container line, Gubbels said. Otherwise, too much fiber would have been left on the belt at the optical sorters.

The Omaha MRF was also one of the first U.S. facilities to install a robot with artificial intelligence. In Nov. 2016, First Star Recycling installed a robot from Denver-based AMP Robotics. It was only the second U.S. MRF to introduce the advanced technology, after the Alpine Waste and Recycling Altogether Recycling MRF in the Denver area.

In Omaha, the robot is sorting clear HDPE. Gubbels suggested that after the retrofit is finished this spring, the robot might be moved to a quality-control function or a different location where it’s handling lower volumes.

PLASTICS RECOVERY FACILITY (PRF) EQUIPMENT

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Plastic furniture manufacturer is now a full circle recycler.

Plastic Optical Sorting System Casual Living 10TPH Baled

Pictured from left, Tim Dohner; Jim and son Jerry

Pictured from left, Tim Dohner; Jim and son Jerry

Casual Living Unlimited’s newly commissioned baled plastics processing plant began accepting mixed bales this January. James Allgyer, owner of Casual Living, needed a cheaper, more reliable source of clean feed stock for his highqualityplasticwood furniture company.

Mr. Allgyer says, “My furniture company depends on high-quality resins to produce the exotic color schemes that separate us from the competition. Green Machine designed and manufactured a system that delivered us the clean product we needed to feed our grinders, wash tanks and ourplastic extruders.”

John Green, President of Green Machine, says, “It was a pleasure working with Jim and his two sons, Justin (furniture plant manager) and Jerry (recycling production supervisor). We all worked closely in determining a final design that would be capable of automatically processing highly contaminated bales of plastics.”

The Green Machine system design begins with an infeed system with a bale
breaker. Mixed plastic bales with fiber, fines and residue contamination are then fed to our rubber disc inclined polishing screen, where the agitation provided by our high speed rotating discs helps to declump bale fragments, while the waste fiber climbs to the top and declumped plastics with fines fall off the bottom. A 2” minus fines screen then removes all small particulates, and a cross belt magnetic separator collects metals. Three patent-pending GREEN EYE® optical sorting systems remove PET plastic, natural HDPE and finally colored HDPE. Each commodity
is blown to huge holding bunkers with live floor conveyors that automatically feed downstream processing equipment.

Mr. Allgyer says, “Our Green Eyes sort cleaner than any other system I visited. We are able to sort with little or no manual postsorting. We are ready to accept mixed plastics bales with plenty of contaminants and sort that material by grade at a rate of 10 tons per hour and produce the cleanest end product. We are now looking to buy mixed bales of plastics from recyclers all over the East Coast and use that material to produce our high-quality furniture products. Our company is truly a full-circle recycler now.”

Designers, Manufacturers and Dealers of Waste Processing Products & Services

Plastics Processing Plant

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Green Machine Recycling Equipment Manufacturer