Lessons in vigilance and ingenuity: optimizing performance at the York Region MRF

Modern MRFs require constant investments in order to take advantage of new technologies, deal with the changing waste stream and remain cost competitive. In 2011, York Region added two optical sort systems, plus a mixed paper sort line and a new baler. The Region also widened the mixed paper and newspaper disc screens.

The 2011 upgrade increased processing capacity from 90,000 to 140,000 tpy and addressed the Region’s capacity issues. However, as in many single stream operations, a decent quantity of flattened containers, smaller fibers and residue were misdirected by the paper disc screens and would end up on the mixed paper sort line. With paper bales making up 50% of MRF revenue and with lost revenue resulting from quality materials making their way to the residue stream, there was a clear opportunity to further optimize the system.

Recovered containers conveyed back to container recovery portion of the operation
Recovered containers conveyed back to container
recovery portion of the operation

Taking it up a notch
Working closely with the Region’s MRF operator and with significant research to back it up, York staff developed a Mixed Paper Clean up System (MPCUS) that redirects containers from the mixed paper stream and back to the container line for sortation and recovery. The MPCUS consists of a ballistic separator, an optical sort system and a series of transfer conveyors. The Region had to reconfigured a portion of the current system to integrate the MPCUS; material recovered as mixed paper by the finishing screen is conveyed to the ballistic separator that distinguishes between two and three dimensional items to capture the containers and remove smaller residue and other paper fibres. Two dimensional materials like mixed papers and flattened containers run through the optical sort system that then separates containers and fibers into separate streams for final sortation.

Details & Data
The project report 831.3 explains the process staff used to analyze the issue and devise this solution for the York Region MRF. It also details the research the Region undertook and the installation process that made this solution successful. A series of commissioning audits and waste composition studies has shown that York dramatically reduced the amount of containers in its fiber stream from nearly 17% (percentage of containers found in the fibre stream before the MPCUS) to less than 2% (percentage of containers remaining in the fibre stream after going through the MPCUS). In addition with a 93% recovery rate, it is recovering far more containers than anticipated. With increased revenue and decreased residue costs, the project has come in slightly under budget with a payback period of up to 4.7 years.

The moral of this story
At a cost of $2 million, and CIF funding commitment of $1,091,420, the MPCUS is a specialized project that addressed precise needs of the Region. It also demonstrates the need and benefit for MRF operators to continuously examine their operations for new opportunities to improve performance.

The key is to monitor operations, think about the solutions that might work for your facility and consider bringing in expert advice – as York Region staff did – when needed.