Extending BCMY’s ability to efficiently and effectively manage old laser and toner cartridges was the primary objective behind their latest development of a new recycling line and the installation of a Bunting Magnetic Drum.

BCMY, based in Lansing in West Sussex, is one of the UK’s processors of used printer cartridges and receives materials from across the UK and Europe. With over 12 years’ experience in handling secondary ink and toner cartridges, growth of 25-30% per annum over a 5 year period resulted in moving to new premises in 2010, since when BCMY has continued to expand.

Bunting Magnetics Europe, with their European manufacturing facility in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, specialises in designing and manufacturing separation technology including Magnetic Separation, Metal Detection and Eddy Current Separation.

At present, only around 15% of the 250m ink and 25% of the 40m toner cartridges used in the West-Europe are recycled, with the majority ending up in landfill, where it can take more than 1,000 years to decompose whilst being a threat to ground water pollution.  In addition, they are classed as a hazardous material, due to the chance of explosion from the small particle size of the toner dust, and any post-consumer processing needs to be expertly managed.

On receipt of the used laser and toner cartridges, BCMY makes a decision on whether the item can be reused or if it needs to be recycled.  At present, approximately 62% of all cartridges received by BCYM are reused and saved from entering the internal waste stream, although the growing number of poorer quality replicas and compatibles (15%) originating from the Far East and a growth in remanufactured cartridges (20%) means that an ever increasing number need to be considered for internal recycling.

There remains a high global demand for specific virgin empty cartridges despite increased competition from the Far East.  However the overall percentage of cartridges collected, that can be reused, is falling. The disposal options for high volume cartridges producers are becoming more limited with the introduction of tighter waste legislation and a reduction in industry capacity to deal with the non reusable cartridges. With Landfill no longer a legal option for high volume producers – waste to energy plants, due to the cartridges high calorific value, is now the favoured route of disposal. However, this raises a number of other environmental issues.

BCMY made a decision to extend their business services by specifically enabling the physical recycling of the non-reusable cartridges.  A prototype facility was designed and built by the BCMY team using their extensive knowledge of the used cartridge industry. At present, with capacity of approximately 2000 units per day, they manually remove the hazardous toner dust and are then left with a co-mingled case made of mixed rigid plastic and metal.  The empty cartridge shells are fed into a slow speed shredder for size reduction and liberation and then up an incline conveyor before passing over a strong Magnetic Drum supplied by Bunting. The Magnetic Drum separates all magnetic materials, such as steel components, springs and other small ferrous metals and ceramic magnets, from the non-magnetic plastic. Post this primary separation stage, the plastic fraction is further shredded for additional liberation before being passed over an Eddy Current Separator to recover non-ferrous metals such as aluminium.

The high strength model DSH-1212-NPD Bunting Magnetic Drum is 300mm (12”) diameter by 300mm (12”) width and was supplied complete in a housing with a direct shaft-mounted drive.  Material is conveyed up to the hopper by the incline conveyor and then cascades down onto the surface of the Magnetic Drum, where the strong magnetic field attracts and holds magnetic materials, carrying them underneath and then out of the field so that they drop into a separate container.  The plastic non-magnetic material is unaffected and follows its normal trajectory into a separate collection bin. The magnetic field is produced using permanent Rare Earth magnets, producing a deep and very strong magnetic field ideal for the application.

There is approximately a 42% metal content in each cartridge, which is then sold as an end product. The recovered plastic which is made up of (PS,ABS,PET,PP,POM, and HDPE) is also resold for a wide variety of applications including the production of plastic wood. The hazardous toner powder is used as a colorant in the manufacture of plastic, in tarmac and in marine paint for boats.

When assessing the equipment they needed for the recycling plant, Simon Gilchrist, managing director of BYCM, undertook a great deal of research before making the decision to purchase the Magnetic Drum from Bunting.

Simon commented, “Bunting was a local company and we were able to visit their facility to witness testing on our material.  We really appreciated Carlton’s advice [Carlton Hicks, UK sales manager] and the testing meant that the separation Bunting claimed was possible was 100% proven and we could purchase with confidence.  We wanted to work with a UK manufacturer so that the equipment would be UK built and not purchase through reseller of an importer.  The installation has been very successful and we have further plans to expand the facility next year. We are currently trailing further Bunting Magnetics equipment: A Cross Belt/Overband Magnet to automate removal of larger ferrous materials from the line in order to reduce the wear on the primary shredder and an In-Line Pneumatic Metal Detector to further improve the separation and reduce metal contamination of the plastic output.”