Penn Waste Invests $3.5m in Optical & Robotic Sorting Upgrades from BHS

Image © Bulk Handling Systems

Pennsylvanian recycling firm, Penn Waste, has added new optical and robotic systems from Bulk Handling Systems to its York Material Recycling Facility.

The Eugene, Oregon based equipment manufacturer said that the upgrade boosts the facility’s capacity by almost 30% from 35 to 45 tonnes per hour (tph), while at the same time increasing recovery, improving product quality, and reducing labor costs.

This comes on the heels of Penn Waste’s addition of a Nihot SDS 800i drum separator earlier in the year to increase their capacity to purify glass.

BHS explained that ongoing shifts in the material stream and increasing pressure from export markets for improved product quality has many recycling facilities scrambling for ways to increase end-product purity while still maintaining acceptable financial results.

After seeing other processors adding labour and slowing down their lines to try to address the problem, Penn Waste president and owner, Scott Wagner, made the proactive decision to further invest in the facility to stay ahead of the competition.

The $3.5 million investment includes three new NRT optical sorters and a Max-AI™ Autonomous Quality Control (AQC) unit.

Added Intelligence
The Max-AI AQC employs a neural network-based AI to identify materials in a similar way to a person. Rather than using deterministic sensors, Max relies on its vision system and probabilistic decision making to provide robotic quality control for the plant’s PET containers.

To enhance container quality and improve fiber recovery, a new NRT SpydIR® optical sorter removes small cardboard boxes from the container line. The plant’s HDPE sorter was replaced by a new, larger NRT SpydIR, which is followed by a new NRT ColorPlus that sorts the HDPE by color.  A new eddy current separator increases UBC recovery.

At the end of the line, the SpydIR® that had previously recovered HDPE was combined with an integrated MetalDirector™ that boosts the plant capture rate by recovering the last few plastic and metal containers that were missed by the main sorting process.

The manufacturer went on to add that staffing recycling facilities can be a significant challenge for operators due to a number of factors, including safety, high turnover rates and a difficult labor market. The additional technology has not only increased Penn Waste’s throughput and product quality, but has also significantly reduced the plant’s headcount. 

“While others are slowly adapting to the new reality, our system is running more material than ever,” said Penn Waste Director of Recycling Operations Tim Horkay. “This upgrade was accomplished in just nine days and thanks to our partnership with BHS, we did not have to divert even a single load of material.”

“The new container logic allows us to react to our new container-rich waste stream and capture more materials at higher levels of quality – with fewer sorters. Commercial recycling isn’t easy right now, but thanks to this system and its upgrades, we are out in front and in a position to take on more material,” he concluded.

BHS CEO Steve Miller added: “This investment in new technology is a testament to the ownership and management of Penn Waste and their commitment to their customers and employees. Completing a project like this in such a short timeframe was a challenge we did not take lightly, and our teams really stepped up and delivered.”

A video interview with Penn Waste’s Tim Horkay also includes footage of the upgraded system in action, including the new Max-AI AQC can be seen below.

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