Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro director, and Gary Moore, UNTHA Global Business Development Director, explore what to prioritise when investing in a new shredder.
With shredders playing an increasingly crucial role in waste management and recycling facilities, operators are right to ensure these assets deliver on their promises.
Once required to simply act as heavy-duty workhorses, shredders must now demonstrate far more sophisticated performance criteria if they are to provide a true return on investment.
According to Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro Director, the first thing to consider when investing in a new shredder is input materials.
“Think carefully about the type and bulk density of the waste you’re handling, for example, as well as any likely variation in this specification and the preferred in-feed method for loading the shredder,” McKernan says.
“These factors will influence everything from the drive power, to the chamber dimensions, cutter capabilities and even the height of the machine.
“It’s also important to define the likely volume of input materials that need to be processed and at what pace, as this will shape the shredder’s throughput criteria.”
As difficult as it can be to predict the future, McKernan says it is critical to look ahead.
“Very few organisations stand still, so some additional capacity is often helpful, as is a shredder’s proven flexibility to handle different input materials with quick and simple reconfiguration,” he says.
Likewise, McKernan says it’s important to define output specifications.
“Some facilities invest in shredding machinery purely to reduce the size of the bulky materials they no longer have use for and/or find difficult to store, in which case output fraction is not such a priority,” he says.
“Others are driven by increasing compliance requirements – certainly as more state and territory laws seem to be coming to the fore – which means output performance matters far more.”
McKernan explains that many organisations have extremely defined specifications to satisfy. If a plant is manufacturing waste-to-energy fuel for example, a clear calorific value and homogenous particle size of 50 millimetres is typical.
“It is therefore important to look for a shredder with a proven ability to achieve the desired output specification, and in an ideal world, the machine should be flexible to evolve alongside the operator’s changing needs too. Often this is possible thanks to just a simple screen swap,” McKernan says.
Furthermore, McKernan highlights the importance of asking application-specific questions.
“Whatever the shredding scenario, ensure the chosen supplier can provide tailored advice relevant to the specific project,” he says.
Stipulating safety criteria is equally important, according to Gary Moore, UNTHA Global Business Development Director.
“Few people would disagree that industrial shredding has the potential to be a hazardous exercise, which is why manufacturers have worked so hard to ensure equipment safety over the years,” he says.
“From easy maintenance tasks that minimise operators’ exposure to the inner workings of the shredder, to proactive diagnostic control panels that prevent the need for machine entry, there are many ways to heighten technological safety.”
Moore adds that engineering innovation is driving significant safety benefits.
“For example, low noise shredders mean operators are protected from the potentially debilitating effect of prolonged exposure to excessive noise,” he says.
“Also, machines can now feature in-built UV, infrared, heat and spark detectors to help prevent the outbreak of fire; and ergonomic design is being prioritised so personnel can service and maintain equipment quickly, safely and in an upright position.”
Attitudes towards recycling and waste management differ across Australia, not just from state to state, but from operator to operator.
It is therefore important, Moore says, to consider environmental impacts when investing in a new shredder.
“Differing attitudes across Australia are, in large part, due to the absence of a cohesive governmental policy, which would no doubt otherwise influence a certain type of behaviour or best practice,” Moore explains.
“Compare this to certain parts of Europe, for instance – where waste and recycling is heavily legislated and target-driven – and operators must prioritise far more than their own performance criteria when it comes to investing in fit-for-purpose shredders.”
There is little point transforming waste into a renewable fossil fuel substitute, Moore says, if the cost of the manufacturing process is extremely harmful to the environment.
“Being ‘green’ also makes commercial sense, as energy-hungry shredders don’t just have a detrimental carbon impact, but can prove costly in terms of fuel consumption, which limits the machine’s possible return on investment,” he says.
Finally, Moore says the business case for an investment in new capital equipment will almost always come down to the numbers.
“The price tag matters, of course, although different finance routes can make things more affordable for organisations that need to spread the cost,” he says.
“However, other metrics are also important. It’s crucial to calculate ongoing wear costs as this will rapidly inflate the financial impact of the investment.”
Buyers should think about power consumption as well, Moore says. He adds that some electric-driven machines are now so energy efficient that fuel savings alone can quickly accelerate the payback period.
“Then there’s the possible revenue that can be generated from the sale of cleanly segregated recycled products, so include these projections in the numbers too,” Moore says.
“If in any doubt regarding how to build the perfect business case, ask the shredder supplier to help.”
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