Can the UK Match Brazil for Aluminium Recycling?
Record Breaking Aluminium Can Recycling in Brazil
This news in Recycling International must have raised a few eyebrows in the UK and European recycling communities. Even though Brazil has been the number 1 Aluminium Can Recycler since 2001, the latest reported figures of 98.4% recycling is very impressive. Maybe even more so when you consider that the EU recycling rate of Aluminium UBCs is around 70%.
Reclaim, Recover and Recycle continues to be the mantra of European governments and although huge advances have been made in the past decades, reaching politically set targets appears to be difficult. And yet a developing country like Brazil, with considerable social and economic challenges, has nearly been able to achieve the impossible 100% recycling target.
In the UK, a large proportion of Aluminium UBCs are recovered through Materials Reclamation Facilities (MRFs). The feedstock to these recycling operations varies considerably from well pre-sorted to almost mixed waste. There is no single UK waste strategy and each local authority pursues their own individual recycling agenda.
Within the recycling process of a MRF, most use a Non Ferrous Metal Eddy Current Separator. This Magnetic Separator operates on the basis of material being conveyed into a strong and rotating magnetic field which then causes the aluminium to be propelled away from non-metallic material. The separation is very dynamic and impressive to see.
However, the success of the Eddy Current Separator is dependent upon the presentation of material. This means that deep heavy burdens of waste will commonly result in poor levels of recovery and low metal purity. Presentation is key.
In practice, many of the recycling operations are focused and judged on material throughput and not recovery and this means that equipment like the Eddy Current Separator is often overloaded and, therefore, under-performs. It is a common problem and a challenge for many MRF operators.
Again, the success of recycling comes down to which targets are set and maybe this is where Brazil has got it right.
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