Equipment Spotlight

Conveyors

Each year United States electronics recyclers process more than 2.8 billion pounds of e-scrap, including 65 million units of computer equipment, according to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers. Electronics recycling yielded 1.3 billion pounds of recyclable materials, according to the Albany, New York based trade association for the electronics recycling industry. E-scrap is also growing, up from just over 2 billion pounds in 2000.

Recycling e-scrap is packed with challenges, from safely handling toxic metals to economically sorting recyclable materials from a mixed waste stream. Before recyclers can deal with these issues, however, they have to move the e-scrap to shredders, balers and other equipment. That’s where conveyor manufacturers come in.

At NEXGEN Baling Systems in Vernon, Alabama, Joe Szany, director of NEXGEN sales, says the company takes much the same products it might use as ancillary feeders to recycling apparatus such as separators and sorters used for recycling any materials. “The quality and strength of these conveyors is very comparable to what you would need on the electronic scrap business that we’ve done to date,” Szany says.

One difference is that e-scrap tends to be lighter-weight material than other recycling applications, so e-scrap conveyors may be less robust. E-scrap may also contain sharp edges, from such sources as broken CRT tubes that can damage conveyor belts used to transport the materials. “You typically have to have pans underneath to keep from ripping belting,” Szany says.

Most units his company sells for e-scrap use combination belts consisting of a flexible belt over a steel trough. Steel belts work well for heavier materials, but not for e-scrap because they are hinged. “The hinges leave a lot of gaps that smaller valuable pieces of recycled e-scrap would fall through,” Szany explains.

“Slider beds right now are the most popular,” Szany continues. “A lot of that has to do with that they are among the lowest cost conveyers. It’s a pretty simple operation compared to what we have done traditionally.”

Green Machine Sales, LLC

E-scrap is a fairly new business for NEXGEN, but the company is finding appealing applications for its product. “One of the recent projects that we sold was to a company that wants to destroy hard drives,” Szany says. “They need to destroy them to prove to their customers that nothing is readable and they were using some kind of process that took them 30 minutes per hard drive.”

NEXGEN’s system, which includes conveyors, magnetic separators and hammer mills, will be able to destroy 2,000 hard drives an hour. “And it’s just simple slider bed technology, almost like the ones you’d see in a warehouse moving clothes,” Szany says.

Shredded hard drives are worth around $1 per pound according to Szany, and more once materials are conveyed to a separator and separated. “Once they realized the kind of product we’d make out of their hard drives, they’re no longer interested in sending their destroyed material to a land fill,” he says. “The material commingled is worth practically nothing. The material separated is worth what the components are worth.”

Government regulations on information security are pushing demand for recycling electronics that are used to store data about people or organizations. “There is a driving force out there, especially with anybody that’s doing business with banks or insurance companies,” Szany says.

Szany is looking for continued good news about e-scrap. “Quite frankly with the coming change in televisions starting in February, there is an expected massive amount of televisions that are going to be destroyed,” he says. “This is the next big thing in recycling.”

Metso Minerals Industries, Inc.

Not everyone is finding e-scrap as exciting today. At Metso Minerals Industries, Inc. in Brunswick, Ohio, Tim Frajter says the company’s e-scrap recycling business remains small compared to auto recycling. “We haven’t seen too much to be honest,” he says.

“The technology itself is more on the separation of the scrap than the conveyance,” Frajter adds. “The conveyance is an afterthought. More attention is on the shredding and separation.” The main difference he’s seen in e-scrap conveyor markets is on the requirements for being robust. “It’s just a little lighter duty,” he says. “We convey it two different ways, either by belt or a twin motor vibratory feeder. Our biggest sellers are our twin motor feeders.”

At General Kinematics Corporation in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Tom Musschoot, marketing manager, says the company’s most popular models for e-scrap are its Syncro-Coil vibratory conveyors and Paramount II Vibratory Feeders. General Kinematics models feature low horsepower and energy efficient two-mass drive, Musschoot says. “All our equipment is custom-designed for each customer’s application,” he added.

Buyers today are increasingly interested in energy usage. “We have a very diverse customer base for recycling equipment, from typical C&D/MRF applications to specialized minerals recovery,” Musschoot adds. “We have also been successful in the recycling of CRT screens using a combination of our equipment.”

Musschoot agrees that regulatory and legislative changes have not tended to hurt his business with e-scrap recyclers. “Actually, it seems some regulations are in favor of using our recycling solutions,” he says.

He also considers e-scrap’s future to be bright. “With the reduction in natural resources on top of the need for raw materials, the future of all forms of recycling looks promising for everyone involved in the industry,” Musschoot says.