AWS Eco Plastics Limited is a specialist reprocessing company serving customers in the UK and Ireland. In 2006, reacting to sutained growth, AWS opened the UK's largest and most technically advanced plastic bottle sorting/processing plant, located at Hemswell in Lincolnshire. TITECHnolgy was the basis for most of the automated sorting equipment used at the Hemswell site.
An expansion took place in 2008 to increase sorting capacity from 25,000 tonnes per annum to 100,000 tonnes per annum, and to introduce food grade capability. AWS had just been granted final customer approval to begin producing food grade plastic pallet when disaster struck. A major fire swept through the Hemswell plant, causing extensive damage to the fabric of the building and the machinery it contained. Undaunted, AWS began the process of rebuilding the business. When it came to deciding what automated sorting technology should be used in the new plant, TITECH again emerged as their preferred choice.
Three TITECH systems are already in operation at a temporary sorting plant that is enabling AWS to maintain limited levels of production until the new facility is completed.
The new Hemswell sorting facility is being built by Stadler and will give AWS Eco Plastics an improved process flow over that experienced previously. 'Our original building was an aircraft hangar which had been added to as we grew. There were a lot corners and awkward flow points. Although the fire was devastating at the time, we are taking this opportunity to really think about our processes. This time around, we've effectively designed the plant and then put a building around it,' explains Jonathan.
TITECH contributed to the development process, proposing a solution that would actually use fewer of its sorting systems to deliver the required results than AWS was suggesting.
'We really value that sort of honesty from a supplier,' says Jonathan. 'We considered TITECH's suggestion carefully, but ultimately we decided to use the logic with which we were familiar from the previous plant, and which we knew produced the quality of material we require.'
The rebuilt Hemswell site will use a total of 20 TITECH autosort systems, mainly focused on front end plastic bottle sorting.The TITECH systems will ensure that a top quality sort on the main grades is maintained at the levels enjoyed prior to the fire and is therefore suitable for food grade production. Phase I, which will replace the original capacity to process 100,000 tonnes of plastic bottles per year, should be completed by late Summer 2010. A second phase of works, which will increase capacity to 140,000 tonnes annually, will occur when the temporary line is installed alongside the main phase I rebuild.
Prior to the fire, the Hemswell site was capable of processing up to two billion plastic bottles per year. Having received planning permission for the replacement facility, AWS wanted to reinstate its production lines and also improve the process flow.
The majority of the bottles are granulated into a flake at the plant, prior to sale to plastic companies both in the UK and overseas. The plastic recovered from the bottles ends up in a wide variety of new plastic products including fleece jackets, pipes, packaging, toys etc. To achieve the levels of purity and quality demanded by its customers for food grade pellet, AWS needs to sort the bottles by polymer type and colour. Particularly high levels of purity are required for this application, so the removal of any contaminating materials early in the process is essential.
Aws talked to a number of equipment companies in order to get layout and specification of their new plant just right. AWS Managing Director Jonathan Short commented: 'We received a number of very good proposals regarding automated sorting solutions, but ultimately TITECH's proven track record won us over. We had used their sorting systems before we knew that they were capable of delivering; this certainty was a crucial factor for us.'