Our managing director Marcus Brew was recently quizzed by Plastics Recycling World on what’s happening in the plastics shredding sector. He discussed innovations, challenges, opportunities and more. If you missed the feature, you can read his thoughts in full, here…
How do you view the current market for shredders and shredding technology at present in the plastics recycling market?
Plastics is a very hot topic, not just in industry but for the general public too. This has created a real impetus for change, and I don’t see the conversation getting any quieter. Savvier plastic consumption, reuse and recycling is not considered an option anymore, but a necessity for the good of our planet. It’s become an extremely emotive subject now, and rightly so.
What this means, in the world of recycling, is that long-standing operators are sense-checking everything, to ensure they’re achieving the best possible reuse and recycling rates, however difficult the ‘waste’ at hand. The savvier of technology manufacturers are also responding with innovative new machinery capable of pushing boundaries of what’s possible, without breaking the bank.
What do you see as the main trends/influences in driving new developments at present in shredders and shredding technology for plastics recycling?
I wouldn’t say that the industry is necessarily faced with new plastic challenges, but a greater ‘can do’ mindset is emerging among the more pioneering of processors, which means they’re striving to solve problems that perhaps previously wouldn’t have been worth the perceived effort.
POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) are chemicals of global concern, for example, and their presence in the plastic casings of electronic products, for instance, limits the reuse, recycling and energy recovery potential of the WEEE if it is contaminated.
But processors and shredder manufacturers are collaborating to engineer transformational lines that can safely and compliantly handle these problematic materials, so that there are outlets for the resulting shredded fraction.
In this specific market, and throughout the plastics recycling landscape, operators’ hunger to achieve more, means they are looking generally, to increase their throughputs, while lowering their operating costs. They’re also looking for safe, energy efficient and easy to use technology, which is flexible, rather than them having to invest in different machines for different plastic applications.
What specific problems and applications require new solutions?
Because the plastic recycling agenda is hotting up, I think plastics that would previously have been deemed too difficult to process, are being re-evaluated for their reuse, recycling and recovery potential.
Operators are thinking about how to process tricky plastics/materials now, such as the transformation of AD and blood plastics into a clean secondary material for remanufacturing – a project with our shredding technology at its heart.
What are the main technical areas of interest at present and how are they being addressed?
For UNTHA, everything centres on problem solving by design, particularly when it comes to dealing with unshreddables.
It’s also important to note that lots of people think plastics are plastics. But different types require different shredding technologies, complete with application-specific cutting configurations, power and output sizing capabilities, for example, as well as compatibility with downstream equipment too. Shredders need to adapt to suit the plastic challenge, not the other way around, and the more forward-thinking manufacturers have acknowledged that one size doesn’t fit all.
This shouldn’t be a problem for the operator – they should be empowered to tackle plastics head on, with performance-driven shredding technology that drives flexibility.
What are the latest products/systems you have developed to meet these needs?
The UNTHA CR is the newest plastic shredding technology manufactured by our Austrian HQ team. It utilises the world-renowned and industry proven UNTHA XR chassis, i.e. to build upon our market success to date, particularly when handling tricky materials without compromising on uptime, low wear costs, flexibility and energy efficiency. However, this latest model has been engineered so that it is perfect for plastic recycling.
Can you provide a brief description of the development(s)?
The UNTHA CR is a high-performance single shaft plastic shredder, specifically engineered for shredding complex/tougher plastic applications, at high volumes – without the high speeds! It has been designed with robustness and flexibility in mind, to protect the operator’s investment. It is therefore highly configurable, so can pre-shred difficult plastics, process post-consumer plastic bales and almost everything in between (e.g. mixed rigid plastics, agricultural film and more).
Please note: The UNTHA CR complements (rather than replaces) the UNTHA LRK – another single shaft shredder which has been installed on thousands of sites worldwide, with some still operating more than 20 years’ later. Known for its operational simplicity and easy maintenance, the LRK is a compact, high throughput machine with quick-change cutters for maximum uptime, particle precision and all-round cost-effective shredding.
Key design features for productivity and profitability:
- Sturdy drive system with high torque motors (75, 90, 110 or 132 kW) including safety clutch, and internal pusher system for high throughputs. Direct drive eliminates the need for a belt, for reduced wear and maintenance.
- Versatile cutters
- Indexable inserts may be rotated up to 4 times
- Particle precision (25-80mm achievable depending on output specification)
- High availability – 5-7 times higher with tooling steel and carbide plates
(Perforated screens also available)
- Sturdy torsion-resistant steel frame to withstand the pressure of heavy loads, with in-built foreign object protection
- Multiple hopper options to suit different feed methods
- Touch screen control panel for easy, ergonomic maintenance and ongoing shredder optimisation
- 2000mm rotor, with variable speeds of 0-103 rpm.
Do you have any interesting case studies on projects you have recently been involved with?
The CR is one of our newest machines, soon to land in the UK for the first time. Successful trials have proven the machine’s capabilities when handling different plastic streams. It can comfortably shred down to a 40mm product, and we’ve even been working with partners to achieve a much smaller output for WtE (Waste to Energy) projects.