Balers are often considered the heart of a recycling system, but many industry players agree that they can often be overlooked when planning and designing Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) . In a webinar last year MRF Operations Forumone expert even called the equipment an “afterthought”.
Unfortunately, the minimal attention given to balers has created a lack of what has come to be known as “baler redundancy”. Mark Neitzey, Director of Sales at Van Dyk Recycling Solutions, Norwalk, Conn., says having a backup press is a good first step to achieving true press redundancy, but several other factors must be considered if an MRF is to avoid operational bottlenecks.
Neitzey says many MRF operators overlook the big picture of what true baler redundancy means for their facilities. Often, he says, operators think of their second press as a secondary piece of equipment, especially if they’re only pressing a few tons per hour.
“Any plant needs two balers of equal performance, so if one fails, the other can take over,” says Neitzey. “It’s overlooked by people buying equipment for their facility. …For a little more money, if you bought two exactly identical balers – and they don’t have to be the exact make or model, but they do have to have the [same] abilities and abilities—you [avoid slowdowns].”
He uses the example of a delivery company, saying that if you were to load a certain amount of material into one of two different trucks and move it from Cleveland to Chicago, and one of your trucks broke down , you would still want to be able to deliver with the other truck. “If one of your trucks breaks down and you have a 1973 Ford Pinto as your other truck, that’s a problem.”
For an MRF to establish true press redundancy, operators must consider several factors:
- All balers must be capable of baling all commodities produced by the facility.
- All balers should have the speed to handle the full capacity of the system.
- The system design should include conveyors that efficiently transport each commodity to either baler.
Neitzey says most MRFs typically have two balers – one for fiber and one for making dense container bales – and customers often request both a single-cylinder and a twin-cylinder baler. for their facilities. He says he doesn’t disagree with installations having a single and two-cylinder baler, but to achieve true baler redundancy, the equipment must have the same speed for all products and a system of conveyor capable of handling all the material. “It’s not as easy as you think, and it’s not as common as you think,” he says.
Neitzey adds that if one machine is moving fast and the other is moving slowly, the plant will slow down significantly if one of the balers comes to a complete stop. “We try not to miss anything if one of the presses breaks down. That’s the common theme,” he says.
Typically the advantage of a single ram press is the ability to achieve higher throughput on certain fiber grades, and the advantage of a two ram press is that an MRF is able to to get a higher density bullet at a slower velocity than a monoram, according to experts who spoke with recycle today in 2020. But Neitzey says those stereotypes need to be broken. “The balers are now linked to these systems, which means the system can only run as fast as the press can run,” he says. “These balers must therefore be able to handle all goods. Both balers must process each commodity without missing a beat and maintain the same speed.
But, says Neitzey, none of this can be achieved if an installation doesn’t provide a backup press. Of the installations he has seen, he says about 90% have a second press, but not necessarily a redundant press. He adds that while any level of redundancy is good for an MRF, “if you’re not planning on installing a second baler already, you’re really going to [have your] hands tied behind their backs.
Neitzey advises visiting other facilities and asking operators what happens if one of their balers fails. Some questions include: Should you slow down the line if a baler breaks down? If so, how much do you need to slow down the line? Why do you have to slow down the line? What would you have done differently?
“Show me how each quality needs to be baled, because there are usually 10 different things that need to be baled,” says Neitzey. “Show me how they all get to the two presses. Even if it’s an emergency and you only do it five times a year, how [it function] those five times a year? Are you running at 25%? At 50%? Are you able to perform it 100%? It’s overlooked in almost every design, or it’s a budget cut and it shouldn’t be.
He adds, “It’s a $20 million decision. Take a few extra weeks and check out other facilities. … People focus on what they’re doing and they don’t even look closely at what other people are doing. … Just ask basic questions.