Kieran Byrne, managing director at Wastebeater’s commercial & industrial (C&I) MRF in Belfast, knew that there was a strong market for clean recycled materials.

As head of a leading waste management and recycling service for commercial and industrial companies and local authorities, his aim was to develop a sorting process that would enable the company to derive high value, high purity fractions from commercial and industrial waste.

After carefully investigating all of the options on the table, the Northern Ireland recycler pinpointed optical sorting as the most effective solution.

Over the past five years, the Belfast-based MRF has witnessed significant changes in the composition of the C&I waste stream. The waste entering the plant has become much lighter, and now contains greater quantities of plastic film, paper, card and rigid plastics. This poses a major headache for recyclers in terms of sorting material, as the original technology was not extracting all the potential value from the waste.

To overcome this problem, Wastebeater designed a new process using optical sorting. The only snag was that no one else in the UK market had done anything similar. This has meant that the plant has taken over a year to become fully operational.

To assist with the plant’s development, TITECH provided the technological solution that the recycler was looking for.

After demonstrating how its technology worked in a wide range of applications at different sites, including C&I waste sites in Europe, and the results it could achieve for different fractions, TITECH came up with an optical sorting system that has enabled the MRF to recover wood from a mixed C&I waste stream.

The system works by using twin NIR sensors to examine different parts of the spectrum, which achieves a very pure wood fraction.

“We were right at the forefront of developing MRFs for the C&I waste recycling, so it was very important that our technology partner would deliver real results, not empty promises,” says Byrne. “TITECH gave us the confidence that our investment in optical sorting technology would pay off.”

During the first phase in June 2009, Wastebeater installed four TITECH systems to sort the 2D fraction of the plant’s waste stream and target film and paper.

A second phase, introduced towards the end of 2010, focused on recovering materials from the 3D fraction, such as heavy paper, wood and mixed plastics. Three further sorting systems were supplied, with one unit targeting paper, one unit targeting wood and the third unit providing a cleanup on the wood while also extracting plastics.

TITECH introduced a new application in the UK that targets wood from the 3D fraction. The latest twin NIR sensing technology gathers greater amounts of information about what is on the belt, which in turn provides an accurate assessment of the materials that are passing through.

The twin sensor system is particularly effective at identifying materials that are very similar to one another, which are traditionally difficult to sort; materials like wood and paper.

Since the technology has been installed, Wastebeater says it has been able to achieve at least 98% purity of recovered wood. As well as providing the Belfast MRF with increased levels of saleable products, the systems have also enabled the company to make significant costs savings.

Byrne has been impressed. “We are now processing up to six times as much waste per hour while achieving significantly higher recycling rates as compared to more traditional labour intensive operations,” he says. “This new system has further enhanced our competitive edge in the UK recycling industry.”

Jonathan Clarke is managing director of TITECH UK

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