Taking advantage of production waste - Case Study

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Courtesy of Eldan Recycling A/S

Recycling areas: Various scrap
Company name: KME (Serravalle Copper Tubes)
Located: Serravalle Scrivia (Alessandria), Italy
Founded: 1886
Employees: 5700

KME is a leading global fabricator of copper and copper alloy semi-finished products. Each year 405.000 tons of copper and copper alloy semi-finished products (excluding copper wire) are produced. From middle of 2016 the pipe production of the Serravalle Scrivia Factory become Serravalle Copper Tubes, born from a joint venture between KME and the Finnish Company CUPORI. At SC Tubes 700 workers are employed and the yearly turnover is in the range of 270 Million Euro.

The recycling plant is located in Serravalle Scrivia (Alessandria), Italy. Head office is located in Florence, Italy. The company has 12 production sites (11 in Europe and 1 in China).

Taking advantage of production waste

In the KME factory in Serravalle Scrivia, the company produce industrial and sanitary pipes (for refrigeration, air conditioning and similar) from copper cathodes and recycled copper, and bars in brass and copper alloys from low quality external copper scrap. If a small defection is found through the internal quality system during production, the item had to be scrapped. Early on they realised that they should do something about all the production waste which was produced each day. After a few years of sending the scrap to external processors, KME decided that it would be more convenient to process it inside the factory. Less transport would also benefit the environment. KME made a strategy plan for reducing the amount of scrap copper pipes, at the same time making the best possible out of the waste material – i.e. separating copper from PE-foam.

As a first step, recycling was introduced by cutting the pipes and removing the PE-foam manually with a small semi-manual shear. The PE-foam had to be thrown away, since the quality was not good enough to be reused or recycled.

Entering professional recycling

Through the external partner who had previously processed the waste material, they got the idea that it might be beneficial to process the material automatically, instead of manually. The external partner used equipment from Eldan Recycling, which made it naturally to contact the Danish manufacturer. KME was offered to make a full-scale test at the Eldan factory in Faaborg. Lorenzo Borneto, manager at the technical department, attended the trials, and was very impressed: “already processing the material in the Heavy Pre-Granulator (HPG), the plastic was separated from the copper”. During the finalizing of the project, Borneto was also the one who defined the specifics together with Eldan.

In 2007, KME ordered an Eldan recycling plant and Eldan pre-press equipment for processing of copper piping with PE-foam. The recycling plant mainly consists of one Heavy Pre-Granulator (HPG165) and one Zig-Zag separator.

In the Eldan plant they would be able to process copper pipes in coils (up to 1,5 m in diameter) and well as in straight pipes (maximum length up to 5 m). Processing at up to 2 ton/production hour (with a Ø40 mm screen), KME would be able to process copper (99% clean) and PE-foam (98% clean).

The plant was installed and started up in the last quarter of 2007.

From manual to processional recycling

Going from manual recycling to a profession recycling facility had many benefits. Manual stripping took 3-4 times more time than with the Eldan plant – i.e. it was much more expensive. Processing the internal scrap took approximately 4 times longer time with manual recycling than with the Eldan equipment.

The quality of the PE-foam was also improved extensively. With the manual sorting, the PE-foam was merely thrown away - now the quality is good enough to reuse. KME give it to local plastic recycling companies.

The quality of the copper fraction was ensured to be pure, which was possible to reuse in new pipes. Acquiring scrap copper alloys externally they could never be sure if it also contained other metals.

The Eldan recycling plant provides high automation. Only one operator is required to run it – including everything from preparation and feeding of the tilting table to removal of full containers with separated output fractions.

Safety first!

Safety in the production facility is very important for KME - going from manual to automatic sorting increased safety extensively. They have strict procedures for how to run the plant. The procedures have been tested and approved, and the operators are fully aware of them, and that they must be followed. The area around the plant is protected with electronic fences and gates, to make sure nobody is in the potentially dangerous areas while operating the equipment. There is also a camera in top of the tilting table feeding HPG, which enables the operator to watch the crushing chamber from a monitor close to control panel.

Lorenzo Falcione, KME Group, oversees running some of the plants in the Serravalle factory, and the Eldan recycling plant is one of them. Mr. Falcione joined KME in 1995 as a member of the technical office: “in every internal meeting to discuss about productivity, quality, yield and efficiency of the plants, the first point of the program is always the safety. KME Company policy is to have as a target ‘zero accident’.”

Eldan was a large help during the implementation of the control system and procedures with signals in the facility. “Recently KME and Eldan increased control of timing in the system, for the operators to have time to leave dangerous areas before the plant start operating” says Alessandro Silvestri, NME S.r.l. representing Eldan in Italy.

Maintaining equipment and business relationship

Silvestri and NME have a close relationship with KME: “KME as a customer is unique in many ways. Part from being a world leader within their industry, the KME recycling facility is special in many ways. As an example - KME has never bought any extra spare knives or spare screens. They have changed the knives once, which was after more than 3000 hours’ operation, and they just keep regrinded them. They are still working with good results with that second set. They also still use the original screen with 30 mm holes”.

Eldan - a positive experience

The relationship between KME, NME and Eldan is strong. Falcione comments; “I have a very good relationship with Alessandro at NME, and I am very happy with Eldan equipment quality and the assistance I get from Eldan through NME. If we have had some small problem, we always get fast and professional answers from the Eldan engineers. The results we get from the plant are perfectly in line with our needs and with the figures agreed in the contact where achieved during the project phase”.

The recycling plant at KME has been up and running for 9 years. The recycled copper is sent to a copper foundry within the KME group, where the copper is remelted, and used for production of new pipes. The small amount of plastic in the copper is no problem for the smelter and relevant air filtration. “I work with several different production facilities, and I must say that it is a very positive experience working with Eldan” says Falcione.

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