Maintaining Efficiency & Effectiveness (E&E) with a payback of 2.2 years

Working through contract renewals while awaiting transition

Glass breaker screen to remove glass from system early.

The Region of Durham’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) operating and maintenance contract was set to end, while at the same time the facility was struggling to accommodate an increased volume of inbound containers. The facility, which opened in 2007, was designed to manage a mix of materials that has changed significantly over the years. The need for additional labour to manage the increased volume of material was putting pressure on the annual operating budget, and the Region anticipated substantial processing cost increases if a new contract was left to start without any process equipment upgrades.

Problem-solving at its best

In the lead up to the end of the current contract, Regional staff took inventory of their most pressing issues and began working on solutions. Issues included:

  • Shifting ratio of paper to containers by weight, from 80% fibre and 20% containers, to 67% fibre and 33% containers. The light-weighting of containers was resulting in more picks per tonne; more and more labour was required to sort each tonne, which was increasing the cost to operate;
  • Inability to meet increasingly strict glass quality standards was resulting in rejections at the end market and backhaul expenses;
  • Increasing amounts of glass throughout the sorting process increased wear on equipment and conveyors and increased maintenance costs;
  • Depth burden at the optical sorters was contributing to increased cross contamination and compromised material value;
  • More “targeted” plastics in the residue stream resulted in not only higher residue disposal costs, but more importantly loss of marketable material revenue.

Prioritizing upgrades to address costly problems

New optical sorter to reduce labour burden

To increase the MRF’s container processing capacity by reducing burden on conveyers and increasing material capture, Durham installed new processing equipment and completed other minor upgrades. Changes included:

  • Replacement of the air separator cyclone, which separated heavy containers from lighter containers and an old glass screen, with a new glass breaker and heavy-duty perforator;
  • Installation of a new high-volume wide PET optical sorter; and
  • Additional infrastructure upgrades: compressors, conveyors, storage bunkers, blowers, quality control stations, electrical, and sprinkler systems.

Well-crafted and executed measuring and monitoring plan

The Region monitored the following aspects pre and post installation to quantify the impact of the system redesign/upgrade and performance of the new equipment:

  • Container line material throughput (tonne/hr);
  • Staffing levels;
  • Maintenance requirements;
  • Unscheduled downtime;
  • Market revenues based on improved volume and capture rates;
  • Feedback from material plastic buyers on quality – marketed tonnage;
  • Residue tonnage.

Outcomes? Payback in 2.2 years!

The Region was successful in achieving the following outcomes:

  • Increased revenue from tonnes: 6% increase in marketed containers earning an estimated $156,000;
  • Improved container line productivity: 58% throughput increase. This was accomplished in part through an increase in throughput from, 6 tonnes/hour to 9.5 tonnes/hour and an 28.6% reduction in downtime;
  • Decreased container line daily operating time from 15 hours (2 shifts) to 8.5 hours (1 shift). This was partly due to reduced hand sorting of PET and mixed plastics, both of which are optically sorted now.

The elimination of the second shift and its associated labour and operating costs, which were projected to be $729,500, better positioned the Region to negotiate a contract extension with the existing contractor.

The MRF upgrades to improve efficiency and effectiveness were projected to be roughly $2,042,000, the actual cost was just over $2,000,000, underbudget by approximately $40,000. The total annual savings were tracked at $891,400, which allowed for a 2.2 year payback on Durham’s investment.

Here’s the key take-away

We all know this but it can be easy to forget: a well thought out and carefully executed upgrade to your program can allow you to achieve a payback in a tight time frame. Any program can use this approach to maintain efficiency and effectiveness even in this lead up to transition. Read Durham Region MRF Container Line Productivity and Efficiency Upgrade Report to learn more.

Context: Durham Region is a 2-tier municipality made up of 8 lower-tier municipalities. It is the largest geographical jurisdiction in the Greater Toronto Area. Their dual stream program services approximately 673,500 residents through 212,000 curbside stops, and just under 400 multi-residential buildings with a combined total of 25,064 units. The MRF processes 50,000 tonnes per year.