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Recycling Equipment Manufacturers Answer Frequently Asked Questions

vibrating screen for construction demolition waste recyclingRecycling equipment manufacturers provide answers to frequently asked questions about recycling systems, processes, equipment, machines, costs, labor, and components.

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What is a Ballistic Separator?

A ballistic separator is a mechanical sorting device with oscillating paddles that run the length of the sorting deck. Alternating sets of paddles are 60 to 120 degrees out of phase from the adjacent paddle to provide agitation of the material stream on top of the deck. The agitation has a different effect on the commingled waste stream causing a separation of rigid items off one end and flexible items off the other. The paddles usually have a mesh opening in the deck to allow the fines, such as glass, to drop through the deck to provide another separation.

how ballistic sorting works in recycling

When used in sorting waste, the rigid items are containers like plastic bottles, glass, aluminum cans, steel cans. The flexible fraction is plastic wrap and different paper grades like cardboard, mixed office paper, and newsprint.

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What does a low cost recycling and sorting system look like?

A very basic recycling system could consist of an in-feed conveyor to elevate material to a single elevated picking belt. Below this picking belt would be bunkers or roll off dumpsters to collect separated materials. If the recycling facility wanted to increase capacity or add some mechanical separation, then a screen or separation device like a ballistic separator could be added before the manual sorting, to separate the incoming stream into 2 fractions. Each fraction would then be sent to picking belts.


How much does a recycling system cost?

The most basic recycling system consists of an in-feed conveyor to elevate to a picking belt conveyor with roll off boxes underneath. This would be a fully manual sorting system. Consider equipment, electrical controls, shipping, and installation. Most recycling equipment manufacturers would say this type of system would cost $150,000 - $300,000 to build.


How much material do I need to start a recycling business?

10,000 to 20,000 tons annually is a viable amount of material for a small recycling business.

Single Stream Recycling System Equipment - System Diagram


How do I start a recycling facility?

  • Determine what materials you want to collect. Will it be Single Stream, Construction and Demolition waste, commercial waste or a combination of these waste streams?
  • Plan on where to get your material from. If you currently collect waste, then you have a good source for materials. If not, talk to your municipality and other local waste haulers.
  • Find buyers for the sorted material.
  • Choose a location or select an area to set up your recycling center. This includes finding an existing building or constructing a new building with easy access for trucks to drop off and deliver. The building needs to have enough square footage for the sorting equipment, tipping floor/storage, and storage of baled separated materials. Height of the building is important to look at as well. Some recycling systems require 25-40 feet of clearance.
  • Gather the required permits from state and local agencies.
  • Select machines and components from recycling equipment manufacturers that will fit your needs.
  • Once you have selected the equipment, you can get financing approved if you need to borrow money. Some state or federal funding through grants may be available.
  • Advertise to make the public aware that you are in business and will collect materials to generate more waste to process.

How many people need to work at a lower cost recycling center?

This depends on the composition of the waste stream and the tonnage to be processed. You will need someone to load material into the system, as well as, manual sorters to pick items from belt.


What is positive and negative sorting?

Positive sorting is where you pick the targeted fraction. Negative sorting is where you pick the contamination from the targeted fraction.


How much material can I recover from a typical sorting system and how much is this material worth?

This depends on the waste stream you are processing and the composition of mixed materials per ton. For single stream waste, an average value is around $100 to $130 per ton in normal market conditions. Glass content is the big negative because it has little value or even a negative cost for a MRF. Glass content could be as high as 30% by weight of curbside single stream.


What is the best order to sort a "containers stream"?

  • First, separate glass. Glass is a low value item and removing it before manual sorting will reduce the total volume presented to manual pickers. Separating glass will also reduce contamination of separated products and reduce chances for injury to pickers. Try to remove the glass up front by using a screen or ballistic separator.
  • Next, use an overhead self-cleaning magnet to recover steel cans. This type of magnetic separator will remove 1-2 manual sorters from your system and has a quick return on investment.
  • Then, pick natural and colored HDPE. These are the biggest plastic containers.
  • Next, pick PET either by hand or with an optical sorter, which can be a large investment.
  • Finally, pick aluminum or use an eddy current separator.

How are aluminum cans removed from the stream?

Aluminum containers are very valuable to a MRF, and recovery is very important. Due to the lower volume in the mix, the aluminum cans can be removed towards the end of the sorting process. Manual recovery by a picker is common in low volume MRF’s, but the aluminum can be easily sorted using an eddy current separator.


How is glass removed from a recycling system?

A screening machine is typically used to remove broken glass from a waste stream in a recycling system. A screen opening with a 2 inch nominal screen will allow glass to drop out, but you don't lose high value aluminum and plastics. You can also use something called an De-Stoner Air Knife to process large amounts of waste and remove glass, stones, and rocks at the same time.


What happens when something gets jammed? Does the entire system shut down?

Most small recycling and sorting systems are in a single line, so any stoppage will stop the entire system.

Jamming is common in older systems that use disc screens to separate materials. Newer systems, that include machines like a ballistic separator, are able to minimize jamming and downtime.


How much energy does a typical system consume during a day, week, month, year?

Small recycling systems can use as little as 25 kW for a base system. Cost at 8 hours per day at 10 cents per kilowatt hour equals $208. A small baler with a 30 HP motor would use about the same. There are additional charges on top of the 10 cents per kilowatt hour, due to peak demand and power factor, which can increase the cost by 20% to 70% depending on the application.


Does every system work well outside during all seasons?

Most recycling equipment manufacturers will agree that very few recycling and sorting systems are installed outside without some type of cover. If you are processing a waste stream with paper and cardboard, being exposed to the weather will make separation and sorting very difficult. No matter what area of the United States you are located in, processing waste outdoors in the elements is either not allowed or not recommended for a permanent recycling system.


Can recycling equipment be moved to another location or is everything locked in place?

This is a great question to ask any recycling equipment manufacturer that is supplying your machines and components. A well planned recycling and sorting system will have the ability to expand to accommodate for higher production rates by adding additional equipment. If you use any below grade pits for push off conveyors, this will make modification or expansion very difficult and costly.


How do I buy used recycling equipment?

Buying used recycling equipment might be the most cost effective solution for small recycling centers or start-up facilities. Before you start looking for used recycling equipment, make a check list or spreadsheet of what types of equipment you need. Contact Tinsley Company and we will search our used recycling equipment inventories and tell you what is available for sale. Then, we will arrange a site visit for you to inspect the equipment.

Here are some things to consider when buying used recycling equipment:

  • How old is the recycling equipment?
  • Has it had any issues in the past and when were repairs made?
  • Are equipment service records available?
  • Is there a warranty and is it still valid?
  • What types of repairs do you anticipate making to the used recycling equipment and how much will they cost?
  • How much fuel or electricity does this equipment require? Are there records available that state the past energy requirements?
  • What is the average cost for operating the equipment?

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