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Baling vehicle plastics

Baled automotive plastics
Could you turn plastics into a profit line?
Back in August we looked at the increasing value in automotive plastics and the potential for the industry to capitalise on this ever growing volume of material. Here we take a look at what’s involved in baling the product ready for the plastics recycler.

Plastics play a major role with in the automotive industry. Today, plastics make up 11% of the weight of a modern car; considering how lightweight plastics are when compared to other materials it’s a lot of plastic.

Plastic components have gained popularity because they are lightweight, durable, strong, corrosion free, impact and water resistant. Complex shapes can be created with a single component and they are cheaper than many other materials. The reuse and recycling of vehicle parts is nothing new, but traditionally this has focused on the reuse of metal components and metal recycling. The increased use of plastics in vehicles provides opportunities for plastic component reuse and plastics recycling.

Advances in plastic recycling ensure that even composites can be separated achieving high purities and yields of individual layers. To make the most of any plastic and reduce transportation cost plastics need to be baled after sorting and before further processing.

Unfortunately, you can’t bale plastics as you would metal, it’s just too springy so your metal baler is of no use here. What you need is a baler that can tie the material up once squashed.

One of the most efficient baling systems a continuous baling press. This type of press, as the name suggests operates without stopping. Normally fed by a conveyor system the material is loaded into the machine via the feed hopper, which in turns fills the bale chamber. Once full the pusher ram compresses the material in the bale chamber into a thin slice, compressing it against previously formed bales and material in the extrusion chamber. The pusher ram is withdrawn and material in the feed hopper drops into the bale chamber behind the already compacted material and the bale cycle begins again. Once fully compacted the bale is tied with four or five baling wires, which are usually made from steel or plastic. The finished bale is then ready for storage or onward processing or transportation.

Baling presses from one of the world’s leading manufacturers, Macpresse Europa, are suitable for baling most materials including plastics including bottles, films and components. A high degree of compression is required to produce a good bale weight with light materials such as PET bottles and larger models such as the Mac 112XL are best suited for baling these light materials. Heavier, denser plastics such as vehicle bumpers can be baled using smaller machines as it is easier to achieve a good bale weight from these type of plastics.

The smallest continuous baling press, such as the Macpresse models supplied by RCP SA, of Willenhall in the West Midlands produces up to 50 tonnes of ram pressure and will bale upward of 4 tonnes per hour of hard plastic such as car bumpers, the largest baling press with 200 tonnes of ram pressure will bale much more. The size of the bale is optimised for transport allowing bales to be stacked three high in a curtain sided vehicle for maximum weight resulting in a huge saving in carriage costs when compared to loose material. In addition to reducing transport costs, bales are easier to store than loose material, take up less space and safer when stacked correctly, they are also preferred by the majority of customers.

This isn’t a light hearted thing to get involved with and you are talking around £250,000 investment, but if you have the volume then, with bumpers worth around £200 per tonne, it might be worth looking at. Occasionally refurbished and second hand units come on the market that could reduce this initial investment significantly. If you would like to find out a bit more, then it’s worth having a chat with Paul Godfrey at RCP SA on 07808 365866 or visit their website here.

In a future issue we shall look at options for the smaller operator to capitalise on plastics. In the meantime, you can read our previous article looking at the potential for the auto recycler here.

December 2014

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