Shredding at the cutting edge

Shredder technology is continually evolving to meet changing demands as waste processing grows more sophisticated, says Julian Heyworth

With ever increasing targets for recycling rates, and the pressure to reduce the amount sent to landfill, the need to deal with waste in an appropriate manner is more important than ever. As a manufacturer of shredding equipment, my company is constantly evolving with the demanding and ever-changing needs of the waste management industry.

A lack of regulation and environmental awareness once meant that most industries could cheaply and easily dispose of their waste stream to landfill without worrying about reducing volume. The main customers for shredder manufacturers were those sectors producing a particularly high volume of waste that is difficult to dispose of, such as packaging manufacturers.

An increasing desire to behave in an environmentally responsible manner, a realisation of the value of waste and, of course, the escalating cost of landfill has encouraged businesses across the board to avoid landfill. Shredders are helping to reduce disposal costs and create a new revenue stream into the bargain by producing an end product with market value.

It's not surprising then that we are seeing a strong move away from the traditional waste management market of waste reduction towards a strong focus on recycling and recovery. Rather than merely breaking down waste items so they take up less space, shredders are being used to produce a manageable waste stream from which revenues can often be obtained. Local authorities are looking at the amount of material they can reprocess, and the value they can recover from it rather than simply reducing volume.

Energy efficiency is also a strong driver which means shredding technology not only needs to be multi-tasking in terms of the waste streams they can process, but they need to be reliable, effective and efficient. Manufacturers like ourselves at Meltog are developing new technology to meet this demand for increased effectiveness and efficiency. Previously you would have one shredder for one task, now the market is looking for more flexibility and wants shredders to be able to processes a variety of waste material.

In terms of efficiency, technology is developing all the time to ensure shredders use less power without compromising on output quality. Shredders can now be designed with various energy saving measures such as using intelligent control systems that monitor the shredder unit's performance and the level of material in process to vary speed and power accordingly. Further optimisation is possible through a variety of different shredder cutter profiles and cutter widths.

There is strong growth in the organics processing market with equipment for anaerobic digestion and biomass plants. Specialist technology is needed to deal with this type of waste stream because of the high liquid content levels which can lead to problems for some traditional shredders. Technology has been developed in response to this such as 'liquid escape zones' that prevent liquid ingress into the mechanical elements of the equipment. Specially-designed seals and cutter shafts also ensure efficient run-off of liquids.

Equipment is developed with the rest of a plant in mind. For example, our Bio Series is often used alongside a screw compactor to compress the material from the shredder, squeezing out any liquid to produce a dry residue which can easily be processed through the rest of the plant.

Secure destruction is another area where technology has improved to meet changing demands. Higher standards of security shredding, both for confidential documents and hard discs, are of increasing importance particularly with changes to data protection laws and costly fines if documents, or data, are not disposed of appropriately and effectively. We have developed one of the first commercially available shredders capable of shredding computer hard discs at a level suitable for Government confidential documents at a single pass.

Shredders have also been developed to give customers the flexibility they want, and need. They can be used as standalone systems or easily fitted inside smaller Transit sized vehicles, or as additional equipment inside existing security shredding vehicles. The demand for more efficient and effective systems will increase as more legislation and targets are introduced and as more people, particularly small businesses, start to realise the value of the material they currently throw away.

Equipment will need to develop further and be able to alter its speed to cut the amount of power it uses depending on how much or what material it is processing. In short, manufacturers will need to continue to create more intelligent technology to keep up with the ever increasing demands of the industry.

Julian Heyworth is managing director of Meltog

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