A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Today we’ll take a look at how technological advances are affecting the way recycled paper is being handled and the cost-effectiveness of them. The information comes from a recent Recycling Today eNewsletter.

We find “While optical sorters commonly are used to sort paper in material recovery facilities (MRFs) that handle single-stream commercial material, their use on residential fiber sort lines is increasing for a variety of reasons, according to industry sources.”

A person involved with sorting paper feels the optical sorting of paper is becoming more prevalent because it can recognize the different fibers in various papers from one another better than many humans doing the sorting.

However, the use of optical sorting must be justified for residential waste as it is more expensive. Thus, while it may work in the commercial area where there are purer and more known types of paper coming in, the material coming if from residential area is a different story.

This means “… whether optical sorters make sense in residential MRFs to where they should be positioned to create optimal performance to how much volume a MRF should be processing before considering adding optics to its fiber line affect whether such installations can be cost justified.”

A spokesperson for one of the newer types of sorting machines explains with the advances in technology, “we’re able to identify all types of fibers and color. We can sort sorted office paper from cardboard from kraft paper from news– long fiber, short fiber– it’s able to identify all grades of fibers individually or collectively.”

The use of optical sorters is not new. Optics have been used to sort fiber in Europe since the early 2000s. One of the reasons for the higher use there is “more paper mills in Europe tend to use more recycled feedstock than some U.S. mills.”

A spokesman for a more advanced sorter in Europe explains some of its capability. “For paper applications, this system can detect white office paper, high-gloss magazine covers, magazines, magazines in light plastic packaging, newspaper, offset print or flexo print.”

He continued, “ It also can analyze contamination from traditional old corrugated containers (OCC), gray OCC, printed OCC and polymers. The system is designed to send out a warning or request if the figures are above or below a certain threshold.”

Coming back to our sorting paper in this country, an industry person stated, “I think we made quite a big step in the last two years, especially in the last two to three months,”

In regards to the expense of the new optical sorters, he added, “It’s a matter of whether you save enough labor to justify it. New specifications and the need for cleaner paper from the China situation may cause more need for optical sorters, especially on the residential side. Bigger machines are more expensive, but you have to do what you have to do. You either have to save money or make money.”

This is true of many things, you often have to spend money (update equipment) to make money or save it.

Till then, do have a great week...

Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 (but not too early) or email omaier@txstate.edu.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666