2019 Recycling Industry Yearbook

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. 6 Processing is an often capital-intensive series of steps for separating or sorting materials by their physical properties. Size reduction allows recyclers to more easily separate mixed materials. It also creates greater efficiencies for shipping, and it can create the desired material density for the scrap-consuming facility. Shredders, shears, granulators, and wire choppers are some of the equipment recyclers use to size-reduce incoming material. Sorting can be done by hand in some cases, but most sorting is done through increasingly sophisticated technologies that detect and separate materials based on qualities such as magnetism, density, shape, size, elemental composition, color, and other characteristics. These technologies, when connected to powerful computer processors, conveyors, and other equipment, can rapidly separate many tons of material each hour. Materials recovery facilities, or MRFs, are facilities that process residential recyclables. They use a series of conveyors, magnets, screens, high-tech scanners, blowers, and other equipment to separate the paper and cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles, and so on. Most MRFs require some hand-sorting to remove contaminants such as plastic bags, dirty diapers, and garden hoses. A few U.S. MRFs now use robots to assist with the process of sorting and removing contaminants. Hundreds of U.S. metals recycling facilities have massive shredders that operate at high speeds with low torque to process cars, trucks, and large appliances, turning them into pieces a few inches across in less than a minute. Complex arrays of separation technologies then sort those pieces, sending metals into separate streams and removing the nonmetallic components. Hydraulic shears and cutting torches are used for size reduction on metal objects that are too large or dense to shred. Plants for recycling tires and rubber and plastics use their own combinations of shredding—often with smaller, low-speed, high-torque shredders—and separation. Electronics recyclers perform a range of services that can include testing, repair, and refurbishment; data destruction or erasure; manual dismantling for parts reuse and recycling; and shredding and separation of end-of-life products. QUALITY, ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, AND SAFETY While scrap recycling facilities vary considerably in size, layout, and the materials they handle, they share a focus on quality and environmental, health, and safety protection. In recent years, scrap consuming facilities and foreign governments have significantly raised their requirements for scrap quality. Recyclers have used a combination of upgraded technology and slower processing to meet those standards, but this has come at a higher cost. The industry is equally committed to workers’ health and safety, environmental protection, and regulatory compliance. To improve performance on QEH&S measures, recyclers are implementing and getting certified to management system standards such as the Recycling Industry Operating Standard™.