Vulcanis has designed and built a new recycling plant to receive and recover steel and aluminium cans in Barking, UK, and purchased a Cross Belt Overband Magnet for steel can recovery from Bunting Magnetics Europe.

Presently, consumers in the UK use approximately 13 billion steel cans and 50 billion aluminium cans per annum and recycling rates are 61% for steel (Tata 2014) and 57% for aluminium (Alupro 2014).  For steel in particular, the UK government has set a target of 76% recovery by 2017 and to achieve this objective more recycling plants and initiatives are needed across the UK.

The inspiration for the new plant came from Vulcanis managing director, Mena Ramsis.  He explained, “I was not involved in the recycling industry and only became interested when I was attending a wedding and wondered what happened to the waste. When I started researching I could see that there was a need for additional recycling centres right across the UK and decided to build the Vulcanis plant in Barking.”

The whole plant was designed and built by in-house engineers after two years of global research and includes equipment sourced from three continents.  A key part of that research focused on separation equipment including the Magnetic Separator for steel can recovery and Vulcanis ordered the Cross Belt Overband Magnet from Bunting because of the strength and design of the magnetic circuitry.

Permanent Magnets, which are suspended over conveyor belts to attract, lift and dispose of tramp steel and iron, are used, extensively across the recycling industry.  A Cross Belt Overband Magnet consists of two pulleys either side of a magnetic box.  A belt then runs around the pulleys, driven by either an electric or pneumatic motor.  Metal is attracted up onto the surface of the magnet when it meets the rotating belt.  Cleats on the moving belt then move the captured metal away from the conveyor and out of the magnetic field where it is discharged into a collection bin.

When Vulcanis researched Magnetic Separators, they found that the Bunting design was fundamentally different to those proposed by most other suppliers.  The most common design of Cross Belt Overband Suspended Magnet uses a magnet box that projects a single magnetic field down onto the conveyor belt.  This is otherwise known as a ‘Single Pole’ magnet and is used commonly on mobile crushers.

Vulcanis identified that the separation performance of traditional ‘Single Pole’ magnets was limited and if recovered steel cans failed to get lifted when passing through that single area of maximum magnetic intensity, then they were missed completely.  The Bunting ‘Twin Pole’ Cross Belt Magnet projected two separate strong magnetic fields down onto the surface of the conveyor belt and so doubled the chance of capturing the steel cans, thus maximising recovery.

Ramsis first met Bunting at the RWM exhibition in Birmingham in 2013 and was immediately impressed with the professionalism of the Bunting team.  Carlton Hicks, the Bunting UK sales manager, demonstrated the strength of the Cross Belt Overband being displayed on the stand and after assessing similar Magnetic Separators on other stands at the show, Ramsis quickly concluded that the Bunting design was magnetically superior and stronger.  Vulcanis placed the order for the Cross Belt Overband Magnet in April 2014 and took delivery in July.  It was installed soon after for the plant to go operational and start receiving material in August.

Ramsis was impressed with the Bunting team, “Carlton and his colleagues were really helpful at the RWM exhibition and took time to demonstrate their equipment.  They made us feel welcome.  I recall my father betting Carlton £10 that he would be able to remove a bolt from the surface of the Cross Belt Overband Magnet.  Firstly, they held the bolt at 250mm and it shot up onto the surface of the magnet.  And then my father tried to remove it, which he couldn’t.  I don’t believe that the bet has been paid as yet, although we did buy the Overband!”

The Vulcanis plant is designed to receive 2 tonnes per hour of mixed materials with no organics.  The materials are received from across the UK, including as far north as Glasgow, often from existing recycling plants that are unable to produce a clean end product of separated metal or plastic.  Plastic recycling companies send Vulcanis by-products, often destined for landfill, who then process the material, removing all the metal, before selling the clean plastic back to the by-products supplier.  Due to the variable infeed, the split of the plastics, steel and aluminium output varies considerably on almost a daily basis.  Presently, approximately 10% of the infeed to the plant goes to landfill, whilst the aim is to reduce this to zero.

Despite only starting receiving materials in late summer 2014, the plant is already at 40% capacity, operating 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.  The output material of steel and aluminium is over 99% pure with a very high proportion being exported.

Mena Ramsis explained the reason for their success and their vision for the future, “When I had the first idea for the plant, the support I had from my family was amazing.  I have always been inspired by my Grandmother and Father and they gave me the confidence to develop something that many people doubted would be successful.  We are building our business by offering our suppliers and partners favourable commercial terms and on the basis of opening up new opportunities for companies to reduce their waste and recover more material.  The response from the industry has been incredible and we are already looking at expanding the plant.  Our aim is to be processing 12 tonnes per hour in the next 5 years.”

Carlton Hicks added, “Working with Mena and Vulcanis has been a pleasure.  Their attention to detail has been acute and this meant that we were able to demonstrate that the Bunting design of Overband Magnet was exactly what they needed to maximise steel can recovery.  Although I am still waiting for my £10.”