Hi-tech approach keeps it green as industry changes

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Technology has transformed the metals recycling industry.

“We were green long before it was fashionable,” says Tom Bird – and that is no idle boast.

While legislation has forced some operators to “green up” their act, Van Dalen and others have long realised that the secret to success is to ensure everything that comes in goes out, nothing is left mouldering in some forgotten corner and as little as possible ends up in landfill.

Material leaving Van Dalen’s gate bears no resemblance to what arrived.

Heavy constructional steel is chopped up by a 1,200-tonne shear to create a denser mix that is ideal for steel works and foundries.

Meanwhile, more complex products like scrap cars and washing machines, which contain a range of different metals and other material, go to the company’s new, £4.5 million shredder.

Shredders have been around for some time and were developed to separate metals and other materials, creating denser loads whose content was more predictable for the steel works and, consequently, more valuable for the merchants. Today’s sophisticated shredders are not only more environmentally friendly, but also more capable of separating out different materials.

Van Dalen’s 1,250 horse power shredder isn’t the biggest in the world, but is just right for the size of its Sheffield operation and easier to keep operating at capacity than a larger machine would be.

“The installation is the best I have seen. It’s fully enclosed and meets the highest environmental standards. It’s so quiet I have to ask if the shredder is running,” says Tom Bird. “Thirty years ago, all the machines did was to produce ferrous scrap and the rest went to landfill. We’d go broke if we did that today. The biggest challenge we face is to is to extract as much as we can for recycling and we are certainly extracting and achieving much more than we used to.”

In addition to separating out ferrous material, Van Dalen’s shredder separates out other metals, which go to the company’s 2.2 million tonne non-ferrous facility, and plastics, which can also be recycled.