When only the best is good enough - Case Study
- Recycling areas: Aluminium
- Company name: Alutrade Limited
- Located: Oldbury and Redditch, UK
- Founded: 1986
- Employees: 100
Alutrade is one of the largest recyclers of aluminum extrusion scrap in the UK. They operate from a modern 100,000 square foot factory in the Birmingham area (Oldbury and Redditch). The central location coupled with a fleet of new vehicles, enables Alutrade to offer a 24 hour free collection service throughout the UK. The company is recognised as one of the countries leading aluminum recycling companies dealing primarily in H9 (6063), H30 (6082) and other pure based metals. They serve over 500 end users ranging from window companies to the aerospace industry and with a client roster that includes well known companies such as Hydro Aluminum Extrusions, Alcoa and Sapa. Ownership: Chris George (founder), Malcolm George and Don Larner.
When thinking recycling, most of us immediately think about aluminum beverage cans. In the United Kingdom alone nearly seven billion aluminum beverage cans are sold each year. World wide the corresponding amount is about 190 billion (190.000.000.000) pcs. Every one of these could be recycled over and over again, saving energy, raw materials and reducing waste. One recycled can will save enough energy to make 160 new cans, or enough to watch television for three hours. Alutrade Limited is one of the largest recyclers of aluminum extrusion scrap in the UK. They recycle e.g. aluminum extrusion scrap, seating and UBCs (Used Beverage Cans). The company purchases the aluminum waste and cleans it up to a material quality which is more usable for the customers (e.g. smelters).Veterans Within Recycling Of Aluminium Extrusions
Alutrade was founded in 1986 by Chris George. A few months later his brother, Malcolm, also joined the company. To start with they focused on recycling of aluminum extrusions. In 1992, Don Larner, joined the company from the Aluminum foundry industry.
Alutrade had this time cut the material using alligator shears, and in order to increase the capacity they needed to mechanize this process. By the end of the 1990’s they started to look for equipment which would accomplish this. The intended input material was aluminum profiles, and the plant should have a input capacity of 300 tons per processing month. It was desired that the technology would be significantly updated compared to the existing machinery. Naturally a reasonable price limit also had been set.'You Need An Eldan Heavy Rasper'
Alutrade had previously done other business with Eldan Recycling’s British representative MMH Recycling Systems. In 1999 the two parties discussed the problem and MMH’s Managing Director, Philip Keatley immediately recommended them to get an Eldan Super Chopper: “Buy a Super Chopper! It might seem like it is a lot of money, but it is worth it!”
Alutrade was invited to see the Super Chopper at a cable plant in the United Kingdom and Malcolm was impressed: “When you see something that does the job, you just know that you want it”.
In 1999 Alutrade acquired a Super Chopper (SC1412) intended for aluminum recycling. The Super Chopper can process soft and hard aluminum material, clean as well as contaminated material and baled as well as loose UBCs (Used Beverage Cans). The material can be processed into fractions which are suitable for secondary aluminum, aluminum granules and aluminum drops for deoxidation purpose. The main fraction size is smaller than 300 mm. 10 % of the output material is oversize (i.e. larger than 300 mm and smaller than 400 mm).
Before the installation of the Super Chopper Alutrade processed about 300 tons of aluminum extrusion monthly. With the Super Chopper they increased the capacity to 1,500 tons per month.
After a while the three owners realized that the Super Chopper might be too efficient compared to the rest of the recycling facility. The other equipment had a hard time keeping up with the Super Chopper. When raising the problem with MMH, Philip simply said: “You need an Eldan Heavy Rasper”.
In 2002 Alutrade acquired an Eldan Heavy Rasper (HR125). After the Super Chopper and the Rasper the output size can be varied (according to the needs) between 20 mm and 80 mm. The Heavy Rasper is ideally suited for processing e.g. aluminum profiles and aluminum cans. The main rotor housing is equipped with replaceable wear plates to increase the durability of the machine. Special tool-steel knives can be reground multiple times on a »flat-bed« grinder to ensure long life and low operating costs. Adjustable knife clearance and serrated knife designs are available in different steel qualities. Screens are available with different hole sizes and different steel qualities.
Increasing Plant Capacity
Three years later, in 2005, they once again needed to increase the capacity of the plant, and purchased another Super Chopper (SC1412) and Heavy Rasper (HR160). The processing capacity was immediately increased enabling further expansion of the company’s activities.Recycling Of UBCs
The same year, Alutrade received a load of aluminum UBCs from the British company, Alcan. The equipment purchased from Eldan could easily handle this, and the trials went very well. Alutrade started to look for additional aluminum cans. Out of the approximately seven billion aluminum drink cans which are sold in the UK every year, a very small portion of these were recycled at this time. There were no incentives for the consumers to recycle, and therefore the UBCs were hard to get a hold of. Each one could be recycled over and over again, saving energy, raw materials and reducing waste.
When recycling the UBCs is it desired to separate the aluminum from the organic material. The aluminum would then be baled again, and then later on smelted at the customer. By downsizing the material, and thereby increasing the density of the material, a lot of money will also be saved on transport of the cans.
There where two major concerns with the British aluminum cans: the plastic widget and the thick layer of paint covering the can. The widget is a device placed in a can of beer to manage the characteristics of the beer’s head. It looks like a table tennis ball and contains pressurized liquid nitrogen. When the can is opened, the pressure in the can quickly drops, causing the pressurized gas inside the widget to jet out from the hole into the beer. The result, when the can is then poured out, is a surging mixture in the glass of very small gas bubbles and liquid. The plastic widget is removed by an ECS (Eddy Current System) after the Rasper. The paint on the aluminum beverage can is removed in the Multi Purpose Rasper. The amount of paint removed depends on the size of the screens in the machine.
In 2008 Alutrade purchased a new and larger Rasper – a Multi Purpose Rasper (MPR200). The machine is specially designed to process aluminum (e.g. aluminum profiles, cast aluminum etc). It ensures individual size reduction down to approximately 20 mm. This machine was supposed to be used in the recycling of aluminum profiles.
In 2008 the global financial crisis punctured the aluminum industry of the UK. Some of the customers which used to use Alutrade went bankrupt or moved production to Asia. Many orders were cancelled, and Alutrade had to rethink their strategy. New potential markets which still had a big demand for aluminum were found in the USA and India. The aluminum can industry had also grown extensively, and had become a serious business for Alutrade. One year later, in 2009, Alutrade had noticed an increase in requests on their services, and acquired one more Super Chopper (SC1412).
In 2010 another Multi Purpose Rasper (MPR200) was purchased. The total of three Super Choppers (SC1412), two Heavy Raspers (HR125) and two Multi Purpose Raspers (MPR200) will be placed in two recycling facilities (in Oldbury and in Redditch). The Oldbury Plant will process various aluminum profiles and old rolled aluminum. It entails one Super Chopper and two Raspers (MPR200 and HR125). The Redditch facility will just processing UBCs (baled) and contains two Super Choppers and two Raspers (MPR200 and HR125). The plants were both ready to process in February 2011. The plants will together process 33,000 tons a year (in two 12 hour shifts, four days a week). If desired, the plant however has a capacity of 56,000 tons per year. A third baler is soon to be installed in Redditch which will increase cacity up to 76,000 tons per year.
Alutrade have a fairly steady customer circuit at 30,000 tons a year. 15,000 tons are sold within the UK, while another 15,000 tons are exported internationally.'You Just Know You Want It'
Malcolm was responsible for the purchase of the first Super Chopper. Eldan Recycling was an unfamiiiar company in the UK aluminum industry. From the steel, WEEE and tire industry the company however got great reviews. “I remember that one person I talked to said Eldan is good – you will not have any problems with their equipment, and after 10 years with the equipment I understand what he was talking about” says Malcolm. His business partner had not seen the machine before it was delivered, but just heard about how powerful it was. “When it arrived, I was actually kind of surprised that it was so small! But when we started the processing we immediately realized its capabilities and surprising powers. Due to it processing material much faster and the fact that we could lower the transport costs, the Super Chopper actually repaid itself in only one year!” says Don. “The Super Chopper might cost a lot of money, but it is not expensive.”
The purchase of the Super Chopper quickly delivered results. “We had about 400 tons of aluminum scaffolds and ladders in storage which we had not been able to get rid of with the equipment we had before the Super Chopper. Once our new super machines had arrived, it was gone within two months” says Malcolm.
Alutrade take pride in their “state of the art sorting and shredding plant”. The recent investment in processing facilities and equipment as described, enables them to handle both baled and loose cans, as well as mixed metals and contaminated cans. “Established for over 20 years, we have invested heavily in state of the art mechanical sorting and grading facilities. This enables us to trade in high volumes of aluminum scrap which coupled with our trading skills enables us to offer consistently competitive prices and prompt payments to suit your requirements.” says Malcolm.
Business is going very well for Alutrade. They just opened their second recycling facility, and have a bright outlook on the future. “I think that it has gone so well for Alutrade due to the fact that we have chosen to niche our business. Many people might try to conquer the world at once when everything starts to go well for them. From the start we have decided what we wish to sell and to whom. We are now known for selling great quality products at a fair price. Our customers know what they get” says Malcolm at Alutrade. “We do not have one or a few customers to thank for our success. We have learned a lesson from the financial crisis in 2008, and will not put all our eggs in one basket.”
“It is great to see that it is going so well for Alutrade. Due to the great demand, they have just opened a new processing facillity in Redditch where they will process their UBCs. “The processing of aluminum profiles will stay in Oldbury“ says Jan Kjær, product manager for aluminum recycling at Eldan Recycling.
“When you see something that does the job, you just know that you want it” Malcolm George, Co-Owner, Alutrade Ltd.
There is however one secret behind their success – choosing the best equipment. “Eldan is reliable with both regards to the machinery and the people behind and next to it. You can trust that the equipment and the separate parts is in really good quality. They for example use Hägglund motors” says Malcolm. “Whenever you have a question or a concern, you are always able to get an answer or help from Eldan.”
Altogether Alutrade has purchased three Super Choppers and four different Raspers from Eldan. “An advantage with the Super Chopper, part from it being of amazing quality, is the fact that you can control the speed of the entire plant by changing the pace of the Super Chopper. If you are processing some tough material you turn down the speed so that it will processed thoroughly, while you turn up the speed if you have a simpler material” says Don.