California legislature passes various recycling laws

Alutrade Ltd. is recovering “99 percent pure aluminum” from an inbound scrap stream thanks to an X-Tract unit from Tomra Recycling Sorting, the United Kingdom-based technology provider says.

Alutrade, which Tomra describes as the U.K.’s largest independent aluminum recycling and extrusion company, is the first in the world to “reap the benefits of X-Tract,” Tomra says, calling its latest iteration of the X-ray sorting device a “sophisticated new sensor-based sorting solution.”

The new X-Tract unit was installed in March 2021 at Alutrade’s Oldbury recycling plant in Birmingham, England, which processes 42,000 tons of inbound material annually. The plant’s infeed scrap consists of metal extrusions from different types of postconsumer construction material, such as windows and doors, as well as aluminum cans.

When the infeed material arrives at Alutrade’s Oldbury plant it is initially preshredded into smaller pieces of around 3.3 to 6.5 feet (1 to 2 meters) in length before being further shredded by a hammer mill. Magnets and eddy current separators are then used to separate the metals into ferrous and nonferrous metals, removing any contaminants in preparation for the next sorting stage. 

Following magnetic separation, a combination of Tomra sensor-based sorting units is used to process, sort and recover the target fraction of aluminum. Two earlier edition Tomra X-Tract units—which were installed in 2017 and 2018 respectively—are programmed to capture an aluminum fraction of greater than 1.2 inches (>30 millimeters), and the new machine targets a smaller 0.4 to 1.2 inches (10 to 30 mm) aluminum fraction, removing heavy metal content from the aluminum.

Both the earlier and new edition X-Tract units sort metals based on the difference in atomic density, separating out any heavy metals.   

Alutrade’s customers are remelt furnaces based in several nations who demand the highest purity grade of aluminum product for their remelting process, since any heavy metal content affects the melt specifications, Tomra says.

“Over the past five years, we have worked closely with Tomra and our main customer and have undertaken a lot of research to achieve this milestone of recovering an aluminum end fraction that meets the exceptionally high purity levels required to go straight into the remelt process,” saysAndrew Powell, director at Alutrade.

He continues, “The smaller 10 to 30 mm (0.4 to 1.2 inches) grain size captured by the new machine is 99 percent pure aluminum, which means we can sell it at a much higher price to our customers for use in the production of new aluminum products. What’s more, the new version of X-Tract has opened up new international market opportunities for Alutrade as we can now source different infeed material, as well as sell on the ejected heavy metal products.”

Tomra’s new X-Tract uses the same process of separating metals by atomic density as the earlier editions, but offers what Tomra calls “far superior X-ray capabilities.”

New features offer faster sorting and an increased capacity per meter of width, says the technology provider. A new high-resolution X-ray sensor “ensures sharper detection and shorter integration times for higher throughput,” Tomra adds.

Alutrade’s X-Tract unit is connected to Tomra Insight, which Tomra describes as its “nearly real-time and on-demand cloud-based data monitoring platform.” Insight enables customers to turn their sorters into connected devices and to transform sorting from an operational process into a strategic management tool, according to Tomra.

Powell says, “Alutrade has been using X-Tract units for the past four years to guarantee the quality of our products that we supply to our customers. This has enabled us to build up the trust between ourselves and our customers. Right from day one of operation, Tomra has helped us improve the recovery rates of aluminum in a reliable way. By using X-Tract units we have been able to upgrade our material so that it could remain in the U.K. rather than be exported.”

He continues, “Investing in the new X-Tract has enabled us to close the loop on the recycling process as much as possible, converting aluminum back into aluminum for use in high-grade aluminum products so that in effect, a window frame can be recycled into a new window frame. With low operational costs, improved safety and superior sorting capabilities, the new X-Tract definitely stands out in terms of the aluminum recycling solutions available in the global metals recycling market.”

Tomra Segment Manager Terence Keyworth says, “Tomra and Alutrade have worked together for more than 10 years, so Alutrade’s Oldbury plant was an ideal plant for us to test and prove the capabilities of our new X-Tract. As the first prototype of this unit in an industrialized environment, it has been a very exciting project. We’re delighted that Alutrade has been so impressed with the sorting capabilities of this new technology and look forward to rolling out further installations over the coming months.”

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