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Publication | Conference contributions

Integration of Sensor Based Sorting in the Mechanical Treatment of Municipal and Commercial Waste

Published 2010

Citation: Brooks L, Ragossnig A, Meirhofer M, Pieber S. Integration of Sensor Based Sorting in the Mechanical Treatment of Municipal and Commercial Waste, Orbit 2010, 29th of June-3rd of July 2010, Heraklion, Crete.


Due to the Austrian legal framework provided by the landfill ordinance from 1996 which has been fully implemented by January 1st 2009, waste with an organic content higher than 5% TOC (total organic carbon) must not be dumped without prior treatment in order to avoid greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. Besides thermal treatment also mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) has been enabled by the regulator as an eligible treatment approach, whereby waste to be dumped must comply with the threshold of 6,600 kJ/kg DM (dry mass) stipulated for the upper caloric value. This is a tough challenge due to the high energy content of plastic, paper, cardboard and wood components which are still contained in the low caloric output fraction of the MBT of municipal and commercial waste as those materials have a much higher upper caloric value. From the resource conservation point of view the utilization of these waste components for energetic purposes is desirable too.
The implementation of the legal framework as one measure battling climate change as well as constantly rising energy prices have caused a change from pure waste management with the intention to reduce the organic content in waste, to the point where high caloric components have become a substitute for fossil fuels in certain sectors of industries (cement industry, pulp & paper industry, steel works, etc). Using waste derived or so-called refuse derived fuel (RDF) demands high purity in order to secure environmental standards as well as product quality and therefore process related requirements have to be met. This can be achieved by 1) qualified selection of the waste streams into the treatment plants and 2) by processing technologies allowing the separation of wanted/unwanted waste components within the plant concept. In cooperation with a regional waste management company, responsible for the treatment and disposal of 82,000 t/a of municipal and commercial waste and operator of a MBT plant as well as a landfill, further processing of a specific output waste stream from the MBT plant was analysed in order to allow an optimized routing of the output streams including the energetic utilization of high caloric components and landfilling of low caloric and inert components. Experiments using the innovative treatment technology of sensor based sorting were conducted with a waste stream characterized by 59 % high caloric components (polymers, paper and cardboard, wood), 8 % other organic components, 27 % inert waste, 3 % metals and 3 % other waste (textiles, fine fraction < 20 mm, hazardous waste). The particle size of that particular waste stream is 20-80 mm. The sorting machine was a NIR (near infrared) multiplex sensor based sorting system with a wavelength of 1,400-1,900 nm in pilot scale. Results showed that by varying the parameters air pressure (bar), scanning speed (Hz), blow out time (ms) and the evaluation of spectra, about 76 % of polymers, 86 % of wood and 96 % of paper and cardboard of the input fractions could be separated from the inorganic waste stream. The remaining components were inert waste (53%), metals (3 %), other waste (textiles, contaminated waste, fine fraction < 20 mm) (3 %), but also dark polymers (12 %), undefined organics (e.g. fruits, vegetables) (9%) and still 20 % of polymers, wood, paper and cardboards. Due to the high portion of organic components and dark polymers in the stream, the threshold of 6,600 kJ/kg DM defined for waste to be landfilled could not be met. Further experiments with a more sensitive sorting system, a spectral imaging technology (wavelength up to 2,500 nm), are planned, supposing that the rejection rate of dark polymers could be increased. Theoretical considerations have shown that in that case the threshold could be met.