Hungarian city makes giant leap into recycling with an advanced sorting plant - Case Study

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Courtesy of TOMRA Sorting (TITECH)

Settlements in the southeast region of Hungary, which previously sent all their municipal solid waste (MSW) to landfill, now have a state-of-the-art MSW sorting system near Békéscsaba that can process up to 120,000 tonnes of waste per year.

The plant, which is one of the most advanced of its kind in central Europe, thanks to its TOMRA sensor-based sorting technology, was commissioned by the consortium of DAREH-Ép and has been installed following a €15million EU investment.

Designed to help meet EU recycling targets

The plant is designed to help Hungary meet recycling targets set by the EU, which require its members to recycle 50% of household and similar waste by 2020. Finalised in the summer of 2015, the plant had a highly successful, initial six-month period of operation and will soon be taken over by a new contractor.

It is designed to serve 86 settlements, comprising around 150,000 households, and was established near Békéscsaba on land belonging to the Municipal Association of the South-Eastern Great Plain Regional Waste Management System, which is managing the huge environmental investment in Hungary.

The MSW treatment plant comprises ten AUTOSORT sensor-based sorting units, which detect and recover valuable materials including polymers like HDPE, LDPE, PP, and clear and coloured PET and PE-film, plus mixed paper and beverage cartons. Furthermore, TOMRA´s optical sorting units are used to clean the organic fraction from plastics and for the production of a high quality substitute fuel (RDF).

During the waste treatment process, the large part of the fine fraction, including the organic fraction, is separated from the mainstream material. Following that, the organic fraction is cleaned separately from non-organic items like plastics, inert material and metals. The organic material is biologically stabilised, thus reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Fewer than 20 percent of recyclables like PET, PP, PE, paper and metals that are larger than 80 mm, are sent to landfill. After the waste has passed through a manual quality control system, the purity of each sorted recyclable exceeds 95 percent.

TOMRA´s AUTOSORT units are powered by ground-breaking and patented FLYING BEAM® technology, which enables them to provide continuous calibration. This means substantially less downtime and greater output stability compared to nearest competitors.

The AUTOSORT units also benefit from DUOLINE technology, which leads to higher performance and low energy consumption, confirming that it is indeed possible to protect environmental resources while reducing operating costs.

Furthermore, the flexible and universal modular system can easily be integrated into sorting plants, and meets a wide variety of sorting needs including single stream, packaging, paper, and household waste.

The organic fraction is cleaned from inert by an X-TRACT. Combined with its high production capacity and short amortisation period, these sensors make the unit the most advanced and profitable product available.

Thanks to its X-ray technology, the system is able to identify materials regardless of their surface and separate substances according to atomic density. Its X-ray camera has a 1.6 mm resolution, allowing it to detect and separate extremely small fractions of inert materials including glass and stones. The result is fast, efficient production of a highly pure, organic fraction, over 90 percent free of inert materials.

Overview of plant operation

The plant operates in the following way: at the beginning of the sorting line there are two parallel lines, each with bag opener, drum screen, magnets, optical sorter for polymers/ beverage cartons and eddy current system for aluminium. One of the lines has an additional shredder for bulky items for the screen oversize fraction (> 320 mm).

The first step in the waste treatment line is feeding the bag opener. After the bags have been opened, the two waste streams go to the trommel (drum screen). The screen split up the input material into three grain sizes: 320 mm.

The main stream, which is the most relevant for the sorting of recyclables, is 80-320 mm. The fraction 320 mm fraction is stored and shredded regularly.

After the polymers and aluminum have been separated from the 80-320 mm fraction, the two remaining streams converge. The 3D (heavy and rolling) and 2D (light and flat) separation of the sorted polymer and beverage cartons fraction then takes place and from these two streams PET, PP, PE, PE-film and beverage cartons are sorted out.

The mixed paper is sorted from the remaining stream after the polymer and aluminium separation. After this, the rest of the fraction goes to the RDF sorter, which produces a high quality alternative fuel. Then the residue of the fraction goes to the adjacent landfill.

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A giant leap from landfill to recovery of recyclables

Laszlo Szekely, Business Development Engineer at TOMRA, said: “TOMRA Sorting Recycling provides more than just a machine off-the-shelf: our expert engineers in the field of recycling understand the complex nature of processing raw waste and metal material, and we work closely with the client to provide the right solution.”

“Thanks to the sorting plant, the whole region has made a giant leap from having to send all of its MSW to landfill, to being able to process up to 120,000 tonnes per year of MSW material in a state-of-the-art-system. This really is a huge achievement for Hungary and especially for the Southern Great Plain region.”

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