10 things to prioritise when buying a new shredder

Robbie McKernan, FOCUS Enviro director, and Gary Moore, UNTHA Global Business Development Director, explore the 10 things companies should prioritise when buying a new shredder.

With shredders playing an increasingly crucial part in waste management and recycling facilities, operators are quite right to ensure these assets deliver on their promises.

Once required simply to act as heavy-duty workhorses, these machines must now demonstrate far more sophisticated performance criteria if they are to provide a true return on investment.

One: define your input materials

Know the specifics of the materials you wish to shred. 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.

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 – and you don’t want to invest in too large a machine unnecessarily – it is crucial to look ahead a little too.

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. A mobile shredder will offer even further flexibility, if it can be relocated around a site with ease.

Two: define the output specification

Likewise, operators must be clear on exactly what the shredder must do.

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.

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.

Then there are organisations with extremely defined specifications to satisfy. If a plant is manufacturing a Waste to Energy fuel such as PEF for example, a clear calorific value and homogenous particle size of <2” (50mm) 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.

Three: ask application-specific questions

Next, ask detailed, application-specific questions to understand the shredder’s true performance capabilities. For example:

— Confidential document shredders benefit from a low speed, high torque design, as they can shred classified material to an agreed specification without destroying the material fibre, which aids downstream recycling.

— If shredding organic waste and packaging, look for specialised bearing and seal protection systems that will eliminate contamination into the machine’s gearbox and bearing areas from this potentially aggressive material.

— E-Waste shredders must have a proven ability to liberate the various high-value composite materials ‘locked’ in redundant electrical equipment and appliances, as well as an in-built resistance to ‘foreign objects’ or unshreddables that could otherwise lead to costly downtime.

Whatever the shredding scenario, ensure the chosen supplier can provide tailored advice relevant to the specific project.

Four: stipulate safety criteria

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 – by design – over the years.

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, and foreign object protection mechanisms that ensure equipment auto-stops should it encounter an unshreddable item, there are many ways to heighten technological safety.

But engineering innovation is driving even more safety benefits.

For example, low noise shredders mean operators are protected from the potentially debilitating effect of prolonged exposure to excessive noise; machines can now feature in-built UV, infrared, heat and spark detectors to help prevent the outbreak of fire; and ergonomic design is even being prioritised so that personnel can service and maintain equipment quickly, safely and in an upright position, without the need to hunch or over-stretch.

Five: think about the environment

Attitudes towards recycling and waste management differ across Australia, not just from state to state, but from operator to operator too. This is, in a 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.

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.

This is the reason some modern machines are driven by energy-efficient electric motors such as synchronous drives instead of diesel hydraulic drives.

Not only does such technology represent far less of a fire risk, but reduced energy consumption means the net environmental gain of such shredders is much greater.

There seems little point transforming waste into a renewable fossil fuel substitute, 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 – they can prove costly in terms of fuel consumption too, which limits the machine’s possible return on investment (ROI).

Six: ensure the shredder is ‘tried and tested’

Identify reputable shredder manufacturers who can supply individual pieces of machinery, as well as those that can help design, source and install an entire recycling or waste management system.

Whether an operator needs a complex plant or a simple waste processing line, true shredding experts will be able to help map out a turnkey solution for maximum efficiency throughout every piece of equipment.

Also, don’t just trust suppliers at face value! ‘Seeing is believing’ so ask to speak to existing customers and better still, request a site visit to witness a working demonstration of the equipment.

The perfect scenario is a trial of the chosen shredder, using your own materials. This is the best way to evidence that the shredder will truly deliver on any promises made.

Seven: new vs used

Many industrial shredders are built to last, which means that while a machine may have reached the end of its useful life in one facility, it could still have years of operational potential with another organisation.

This presents an attractive investment option for many businesses, especially those who can procure a high-performance used shredder for a fraction of the cost of new technology.

Some manufacturers offer shredder rebuild services too, giving the operator greater peace of mind regarding the ongoing condition of the equipment.

Eight: remember non-machine considerations

Of course, the shredder needs to fulfil the performance criteria set out for it, but wider due diligence is also important.

Ask the manufacturer about typical service intervals and to what extent they are likely to affect uptime, for example. Labour intensive maintenance tasks can soon cause operational disruption which isn’t just inconvenient – it costs money, restricts the payback period of the shredder and could even put operators’ health and safety at risk.

Think also about factors such as the cost of spare and wear parts, typical wear rates, and the availability of these crucial machine components. Again, this will all impact on future uptime statistics plus the shredder’s whole life running costs.

Some suppliers take aftersales support very seriously, which means long-term ROI is far more likely.

Others don’t think much beyond the initial sale of the machine, which can leave operators feeling a little isolated when it comes to refresher training or future process optimisation.

In short, look for a shredder specialist that truly prioritises a long-term partnership approach.

Nine: ask for a project plan

While some facilities can be flexible in their lead times for a new shredder, others have to work to strict project plans.

So, whether a machine is replacing incumbent technology and downtime cannot be afforded, or the commissioning timeframes risk jeopardising the likelihood of a new plant coming online, talk to the supplier about next steps and key calendar milestones.

Shredders are commonly engineered to order, so a rapid turnaround is probably not possible.

But a serious and engaged supplier will respect the project criteria and do what they can to keep the installation moving, while communicating with the operator every step of the way. If this project proactivity is not apparent, it may be wise for the search to continue.

Ten: do the math

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.

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.

Think as well about power consumption – some electric-driven machines are now so energy efficient that fuel savings alone, when compared to more traditional diesel-driven equipment, quickly accelerates 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.

If in any doubt regarding how to build the perfect business case, ask the shredder supplier to help – this exercise should be very straightforward for them.

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UNTHA specialist to present at Waste to Energy Forum

UNTHA’s waste-to-energy (WtE) specialist Gary Moore is heading to Australia to join the team at FOCUS enviro for AIEN’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum.

The forum, held 19-20 February in Ballarat, will focus on waste hierarchy fundamentals and their applications, as well as waste diversion and the energy supply landscape.

Other key topics include the appropriate use of alternative WtE technologies and the definition of residual materials.

According to a FOCUS enviro statement, Mr Moore will discuss the latest equipment solutions from UNTHA, and present on whether RDF and PEF represent Australia’s future resources.

“With almost 30 years’ experience within the waste and recycling sector, Mr Moore will be drawing upon international examples from the ever-changing landscape to explore what role alternative fuels will play in the country’s future resource strategy, using successful, global WtE projects as reference points for delegates,” the statement reads.

FOCUS enviro will also host a Demo Day showcasing UNTHA shredding technology in Melbourne 20 February.

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Particle size innovation

Melbourne’s Knox Transfer Station is pioneering refuse-derived fuel using an Australian-first technology to achieve a small particle size.

Over the years, Melbourne’s Knox Transfer Station has grown from being more than just a transfer station to a hard waste processor for a number of councils.

Operated by KTS Recycling and located in Wantirna South, the company also runs transfer stations in Coldstream, Skye and Wesburn.

Craig Davis, Process Manager at KTS, joined the company 14 months ago to support the company’s entrance into the refuse-derived fuel (RDF) market. RDF is used as a renewable substitute for fossil fuels in cement kilns and specialised energy-from-waste plants.

The motivation for KTS to get involved with RDF was inspired by its collection of hard waste and mattresses through parent company WM Waste Management Services. To maximise resource recovery and find a home for residual plastics, textiles, wood and other materials, the company started looking at RDF around five years ago.

“We were shredding and extracting metals from hard waste and mattresses and hand sorting cardboard and timber with the remaining material going to landfill,” Craig explains.

KTS’ expansion into recycling mattresses initially saw it shred and recycle metal with the remainder sent to landfill, but it believed it could be doing more.

“We didn’t just want to be seen as a wheel’s business and a processor, we wanted to do something different and stay ahead of the curve,” he says.

PROCESS ENGINEERING

In late 2017, KTS Recycling began to establish an interim RDF manufacturing facility at its Knox Transfer Station with support from Sustainability Victoria’s Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.

Extensive trial and error was required to ensure the material could meet specification, in particular the particle size for the fuel’s end user.

Craig’s background working with various shredders and grinders at SUEZ and Veolia helped fast track the process, experimenting with a number of different shredders, trommels and screens on-site.

However, despite extensive experimentation, no processes could consistently achieve its less than 50-millimetre output particle requirements. This led KTS to look outside of its existing resources and investigate a new and innovative resolution.

Owner Mark Jeffs flew to Europe last year to check out the UNTHA XR3000 mobil-e in action. As a specialist in machinery and manufacturing technology, Craig also went overseas earlier this year to inspect and test the XR3000.

Mark and Craig were both impressed by the single-pass shredding and lower rotation speed capabilities of the technology. As lower speeds generally have lower wearing costs and a reduced fire risk, the machine was seen as highly advantageous for KTS.

The XR3000’s ability to handle up to 30 tonnes of commercial, industrial and wood waste per hour was also a big plus.

Having previously engaged with FOCUS enviro on a number of other waste processing and technology choices, KTS turned to the company to provide an RDF solution.

FOCUS enviro then called on the product knowledge and experience of its technology partner UNTHA.

After discussing KTS’ requirements, the 37-tonne mobile machine was shipped to their Knox headquarters in July 2019, becoming the first ever Australian company to use the technology. The UNTHA XR3000 mobile-e has been applied successfully in more than 9000 successful installations worldwide.

A diesel mechanic by trade, Mark has achieved a long line of innovations through KTS and parent company WM Waste Management, including becoming one of the first organisations to trial and purchase electric refuse vehicles.

Mark says that alternative fuel is becoming more and more important in Australia and as a progressive environmental company KTS wanted to stay ahead of the curve.

“We acknowledged that by investing in world class RDF production technology, we could produce a high-quality resource, efficiently, and hopefully really drive the market for this crucial energy source,” Mark says.

Rod Tanner, Business Support Manager at KTS Recycling, says one of the most important criterions of the company’s operations is to ensure a reliable small particle size.

“The challenging aspect to our operations is that we make our product today, but we don’t really get feedback from the markets until weeks later so we have to do a lot of our testing locally to ensure we get our products right.”

Michael Strickland, KTS Project Manager, says that there would be big ramifications if deleterious materials ended up in the fuel.

COUNCIL COLLABORATIONS

Rod says the majority of customers in hard rubbish are local government and are accountable for landfill diversion targets, making the business case even more attractive.

“We service customers all over Melbourne and even some regional councils as far as mattresses go,” Rod says.

“We’ve actually got a contract with the North East Regional Waste Management Group so we service all the way up to Albury-Wodonga.”

He says that with more than a dozen customers working with KTS Recycling, the company is looking at opening up conversations with more commercial and industrial operators.

KTS’ process will involve taking RDF-compliant material from its other sites and processing it in Wantirna South.

Rod says that at this stage the main material going through the UNTHA is typical kerbside hard waste collected items, including mattresses and foam. Depending on calorific value results over the coming months, the company will also look at increasing its commercial and industrial waste processing.

Rod says that KTS is committed to doubling its initial output of RDF over the next four years.

While RDF remains relatively niche in Australia, the markets in Europe have grown exponentially.

According to data compiled by the UK association RDF Industry Group, the proportion of refuse-derived and solid recovered fuel has been steadily increasing each year since it began in 2010 to 2017. The sector is worth around £0.5 billion ($0.89B AUD) annually and RDF production supports more than 6800 jobs in the UK.

Gary Moore, UNTHA Director for Global Business Development, says the company is continuing to work with itscustomers to maximise throughputs, minimise impurities andmaximise margins.

“Australia is one of the world’s most exciting countries when it comes to waste-to-energy potential, and it’s great to now be a part of it,” Gary says.

A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

At the August Council of Australian Government’s meeting, federal and state and territory environment ministers agreed to work towards banning recyclable waste being exported overseas.

While a timeline has yet to be established, Robbie McKernan, FOCUS enviro Director welcomes the move and sees it as an opportunity for surplus non-recyclable material to be manufactured into RDF.

“The prime minister’s announcement will only fuel the need for alternative pathways for material that would otherwise be sent overseas,” Robbie says.

“RDF is a high quality resource and its success is well documented in markets around the world.”

Robbie says RDF is a first class alternative to landfill and can be supplied to many different types of energy facilities using fossil fuels.

Calorific value is another challenge and KTS is working on bringing its moisture content down. To rectify this, KTS is continually trialling a combination of different waste compositions with one of them including mattresses.

To support the shredding process, KTS has also acquired an EDGE density separator from FOCUS enviro to remove inert materials such as glass, ceramics and concrete prior to feeding material into the UNTHA.

KTS’ RDF process sees waste come in and be sorted and shredded into various piles before removing inerts through the EDGE density separator. The shredded materials are baled and wrapped into their finished product.

The new XR3000 mobil-e takes advantage of an electromechanical drive without having to forgo the advantages of a mobile machine.

Consistent 30-millimetre to 400-millimetre particle sizes are achievable.

Three different cutting concepts are available depending on the material and fraction size – a ripper, cutter or knife system. The system comprises an internal pusher that allows the material to be pressed against the shredding shaft to maximise production.

Robbie says FOCUS enviro now offers the complete alternative fuel production industry pre-shredders, density separators, industrial baling and bale wrappers and all technology components requirements to manufacture RDF.

“This means our clients can source a complete RDF production line from a single supplier in Australia which is unmatched in the industry,” Robbie says.

Robbie says the UNTHA X3000 mobil-e is unlike anything FOCUS enviro has previously seen in the marketplace.

“We had the chance to see it in the factory and some customer sites in the UK but it’s only when you see the machine in action that you understand it is in another league entirely,” he says.

“We’ve supplied shredders for decades so we were completely taken aback by the jump in machine capabilities and process diagnostics, from the drive system to pusher arm and the knife changeover features.”

Robbie says the ability to produce a homogenous and defined output fraction in a single pass has opened up more opportunities in difficult-to-shred applications.

“UNTHA are now dominating the plastic granulation, tyre-derived fuel, mattress, biomass, pulper ropes and e-waste resource recovery market with their ability to reduce materials efficiently with consistent size and minimal fines,” he says.

He adds that post-consumer and production waste plastics is another example where the machine is working with little to no competition in performance on an industrial level.

The range of shaft and cutter configurations means the shredders are suitable for thermoplastics, duroplastics and elastomers.

In the burgeoning waste-to-energy market, the shredder is also ideal for gasification or biomass markets.

“At the end of the day we’re making a product that substitutes black coal and cement kilns have to burn products regardless so if you can use a renewable fuel that’s best practice from a greenhouse gas perspective,” Michael says.

Craig says that the early results are highly positive and KTS has been able to trial new materials such as car and truck tyres, which has already reduced disposal and transport costs, allowing KTS to send pre-shredded tyres to an end user.

The testing forms part of KTS’ broader vision to be a geographical hub for PEF in Melbourne.

“Understanding where our waste stream is sitting will allow us to explore options for new residuals. We’re learning as we’re going, but we’ve already come a long way,” Craig says.

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FOCUS enviro announces exclusive distribution deal

FOCUS enviro has secured exclusive Australian distribution rights for UNTHA process engineered fuel shredding technology, as the countries energy from waste market grows.

FOCUS enviro Director Robbie McKernan said the agreement to integrate Austrian company UNTHA’s equipment into the FOCUS enviro range reflects the growing appetite of Australian operators to turn waste into a resource.

“UNTHA’s world-renowned static and mobile XR shredders for process engineered fuel production have been added to our portfolio,” Mr McKernan said.

“We’ve been watching intently the number of resource derived fuel and solid recovered fuel plants that have come online in the UK, Austria, Germany and Denmark. 10 years of industry analysis means we’re now armed with best-practice advice to pass on to clients in Australia.”

Mr McKernan said alternative fuel production lines can be optimised for maximum product quality, bottom line impact and environmental gain.

“As the Australian process engineered fuel market gains traction we need best-in-class technology as robust as our knowledge,” Mr McKernan said.

“We wanted to integrate UNTHA into our offering, but to represent them on an exclusive basis is a real honour.”

According to Mr McKernan, UNTHA’s XR shredder is able to process an array of input material to meet defined fuel specifications, from cement plants through to biomass burners.

“Some Australian waste management companies are producing and exporting fuels but the specifications remain extremely varied,” Mr McKernan said.

“As the market matures – and more small-medium businesses enter with their eyes on best-practice – I would hope UNTHA can help drive standardisation when it comes to fraction sizing, product quality and calorific value.”

UNTHA Global Business Development Director Gary Moore said Australia has one of the most exciting energy from waste markets in the world.

“Alternative fuel production is in its infancy here in comparison to parts of Europe for instance, but landfill rates are rising, environmental pressures are mounting and China’s landmark movement has forced a new direction for the country’s waste framework,” Mr Moore said.

“A number of international waste operators with a presence in Australia are driving a global knowledge transfer programme to strengthen resource security.”

According to Mr Moore, FOCUS enviro has the right technology and service ethos to represent the UNTHA brand in Australia.

“You only have to look at the role they had at the recent energy from waste conference in Melbourne to see they are the partner to talk to in this sector,” Mr Moore said.

“Over 9000 UNTHA shredders are now installed worldwide, and global growth of 25 per cent is predicted in the next 12 months —Australia’s contribution to the overall company turnover will see significant increase over the next five years.”

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