Recycling drive keeps suppliers on their toes

Market demands for recycling vehicles are diverse and ever changing - so how are vehicle manufacturers keeping pace with it all? Mike Gerber reports

Britain remains one of the worst recyclers in Europe, and the Institute of Policy Research and the Green Alliance has just published a report that advocates giving local authorities the power to charge a fee for collecting non-recyclable rubbish.

Countries such as Germany that have introduced pay-as-you-throw schemes have seen their collection rates rocket. This is one of the factors the UK's recycling vehicle manufacturers may soon have to consider in an evolving market.

Presently, there is a great discrepancy between LAs throughout the UK in how they collect their recycling waste. Many still use RCVs rather than invest in dedicated recycling vehicles, while others opt for the split-compartment hybrids. For Linktip, market demands have already changed in the past year, and managing director Roger Fleetwood believes the industry is trying to find its feet. He sees it moving away from stillage-bodies and far more towards split lifts on the side - especially 1,100 litres or 3,600 litres.

These fit health & safety specifications in that whatever they pick up are over the shoulder height of the loaders. Out of Linktip's range of vehicles, Fleetwood picks out the refuse bin lifts bodytype - the Micropack RCV and Linkpacka RCV. Here, the binlift unit is mounted directly to the body structure and folds away when not in use.

The smaller Micropack is particularly suited to collections from town centre pedestrianised zones with limited access. These days 80% of Linktip's sales are split body - whether caged or recycling cages - in conjunction with a tail lift on the back. Linktip prides itself on its flexibility as each LA requires different specifications. Increasingly, Linktip is providing bespoke vehicles.

A range for all seasons
Farid's recycling range also includes a split body, along with a sideloader and a one-piece body. The Farid Selecto is a split body vehicle with two separate tailgates to stop contamination of one material to another. A single hopper has the ability to carry single source material non-compacted.

The Farid Automatic Sideloader is a one-person operated vehicle capable of picking up containers from 1,200ltr capacity to 3,200ltrs, and there is a special body for glass recycling applications. This vehicle is now operating in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Farid's Minimatic one-piece rear-loaders ensure no leakage and - with a compaction ratio of approximately 3:1 - maximum payloads.

"This is an ideal combination for recyclable materials and systems are working in both private and public sectors throughout the UK," says Emma Siney, sales adminstrator for Farid. She also points to the Farid Molok: "This recycling vehicle can unload containers by means of a lorry-mounted crane, while using the same vehicle for rear-loading compaction collection with or without a container hoist."

John Prescott, managing director of Kerbside Recycling, has observed the market moving away from non-compaction vehicles to normal compaction vehicles in the fortnightly collection. "Local authorities are opening more and more plants where the refuse can be sorted and separated. They can therefore use a normal refuse vehicle and collect all the mixed recyclables together," he points out.

This has proved to be a challenge for Kerbside whose vehicles are all non-compaction. However by sounding out its customers in product development and requirements, the company realised there was a need for smaller kit for use in rural or tight areas with limited access.

In 2005, the company launched the Kerbside Multi Loader, used by a number of LAs including Oswestry, in Shropshire, who were consulted in the design and development. One problem highlighted was operatives having to handle the boxes again at the depot. The Multi Loader's boxes can be removed with a forklift, getting round the double-handling problem.

Size matters
This year, with size and accessibility becoming major factors, the company has launched a smaller Multi Loader. It is lighter and can be placed onto a 7.5 ton chassis. Functioning exactly the same way as the bigger version, the mini Multi Loader also loads up to five types of recyclables through the roof into stillages.

BMI Trailers, leading manufacturer and supplier in the UK and Ireland for waste ejectors trailers, is fairly new to the recycling vehicle market - trading for 18 months. "BMI are keen to ensure that clients get the right product to serve their needs and also places great emphasis on its after-sales service," says managing director Brendan McIlvanna.

BMI's Fastfloor trailer is constructed from hi-grade aluminium and has a payload of up to 25 tonnes. The Compactor/Ejector has a body capacity of between 70 and 97 cubic meters. It has a payload weighing system - particularly useful in Ireland where pay-by-weight has been introduced.

Playing it safe
It's a tough environment for newer entrants and one such manufacturer, who asks to remain anonymous, gives vent to his frustration at how the market is run: "The tendency is for customers to play it safe in their choice of vehicle. Local authorities and the public sector are continually faced with both financial and time constraints that may blinker their view. Vehicles that are chosen may not necessarily be those that will best serve in the long-term and opt instead for safe choices with market leaders.

"This also stunts the drive towards innovation and re-development in products as manufacturers stick with the best sellers. One such example may be the kerbside recycling vehicles which were sponsored by Defra and bought in their hundreds. A boon for the manufacturers, but equipment that was not necessarily suitable for all." This manufacturer wonders how many lay unused in council yards.

As the volume of recyclable material grows, both LAs and vehicle manufacturers will have to radically re-assess their methods and equipment. Linktip's Roger Fleetwood already recognises the ratio of the size of recycling boxes and waste bins will have to swap.

Will we soon be seeing bins for recyclables and boxes for refuse? Will pay-as-you-throw happen here? John Prescott thinks there will be a hostile reaction from householders and councils will have to re-assess refuse collection charges.

However, with the scheme already in place in Europe he is looking at what type of equipment is in operation there and what modifications he would need to be making.

No doubt other UK vehicle manufacturers are doing the same.

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