Bales of the unexpected

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

GBN Services, which separates materials to produce refuse- derived fuel in London and the home counties, recently invested in Dicom Paal’s Dokon 275H baler – ‘the first of its kind in
the UK’ – at its Basildon site. Geraldine Faulkner reports

Like many of its well-established counterparts in the waste sector, London-based GBN Services began in the 1980s as a haulage operator before progressing to tippers and skips. Through judicious acquisitions and purchases, it now operates a network of recycling depots. However, there the similarity with other skip operators ends; because since 2014, GBN Services has become a producer of refuse-derived fuel (RDF).

“Leyton was our first site,” recalls Karen Smith, business development manager with GBN Services. “We currently operate out of six depots, which we have acquired over the years. These comprise Leyton, Uxbridge, Southgate, Harlow, Southend, and Basildon. We have a strong regional presence covering the Greater London and home counties and operate over 200 vehicles including skip/ RoRo and dustcarts, servicing the London and home counties area. Our operations run on the premise of separation and segregation of materials and the production of RDF.”

Indeed, if it wasn’t for having to send its fines to landfill, the company would be able to boast of being 100% landfill-free. “We are currently looking into other ways of disposing them,” confides Smith.

GBN Services’ journey down the RDF route began with a second-hand baler at its Uxbridge depot two years ago. “It took a capital investment of £1 million and we progressed from one load a day to 15 loads per week in a short three-month period. That’s a 300% increase,” remembers Smith, before adding: “The following March we started building a recycling plant at our Basildon site. It was then that we got in touch with Dicom regarding their
Dokon 275H baler. I contacted all the baler companies at the time and it was through recommendations that Dicom came out top.”

One of the company’s most recent investments is at its Basildon site. GBN has invested over £3m in new sorting equipment, including a Paal RDF baler supplied by Dicom. According to Chris Parke, area sales manager with Dicom, the Dokon 275H is the first of its kind in the UK, if not in the world. “The baler processes materials that cannot be further sorted in order to produce RDF bales which can then be handled and transported efficiently and economically,” says Parke.

“GBN opted for the Paal Dokon 275H with a 45kW Bosch power pack fed by a Paal KEF 1200 conveyor. With the specified drive size, the baler can process up to 32 tonnes per hour, depending on the input density of the material being baled.”

Smith again: “Our other depots feed into this plant. While the other sites perform a primary separation and segregation to a basic level, Basildon performs a high- quality secondary sort to pull out more reusable and recyclable materials. We export our RDF to energy from waste plants in Germany, the Netherlands and other EU countries,” adds the business development manager.

GBN’s Basildon site is extremely ‘compact’ and comes in at just under 4,000 square metres. “It is very cosy, especially in comparison with our other sites such as Leyton and Uxbridge, which are around 2.5-3 acres in size,” says David Wolfenden, the company’s group health and safety manager.

Clients whose waste GBN collects include blue-chip names such as Bouygues UK, Higgins Construction and Galliford Try. “Now that we offer an RDF service, it means GBN can deliver 98% diversion from landfill for their customers,” adds Wolfenden.

The relationship with Dicom, although relatively new, has been embedded at the Basildon site. “What makes the Dokon 275 unique is that instead of tying bales with steel or plastic wire, it has a proven tying system that uses polypropylene twine. Once you produce RDF, you become a manufacturer, and there are two things that are most important for a manufacturer; these are reliability and cost. To keep the cost of each bale to a minimum, using twine rather than wire or plastic means the twine cost per bale can be as little as 20p, which represents a huge saving versus the cost of steel or plastic wire,” explains Parke.

The area sales manager goes on to point out that since Paal became involved with RDF producers, it has recognised the importance of saving all forms of operational costs.

For instance, in addition to the savings generated by the twine-tie system, Paal has also looked at energy costs and so has focused on the power packs it provides.

“Paal invests large amounts of time and money in R&D to embrace new technologies, with the Bosch Rexroth Axial piston pumps being one of the latest editions to the Dokon H range. This saves customers money in power consumption while still delivering the required throughput,” continues Parke.

What about after-sales?

“We have a local engineer based in Southend,” says Smith. “In fact, we’ve not had much downtime with the Dokon baler. It’s a case of getting the size of the bale right.”

Parke comments: “With RDF varying from customer to customer, it’s about getting the machine set up correctly for the specific material being baled at the time of commissioning. Once the correct set-up has been achieved, processing can start and the headache of having enough material to feed the baler can begin.”

What are GBN’s plans for the future?

“We are working on a new site,” says Wolfenden. “At the moment, we are in the process of looking at drawings and designs before we can go to full planning. It will only be then that we can start looking at front- end machinery like picking stations and all the machinery that is needed to get the best quality sorting. After that we can consider our options for back-end kit like balers.”

The last word goes to Smith: “What with Brexit and the drop in the value of sterling, we’ve had an increase in price of our RDF. Europe still wants the UK RDF, which is encouraging. With our new site we plan to go beyond RDF to SRF and getting the extra premium.”

Company history

GBN Services was incorporated in RVL Holdings, which also provides storage solutions, bonded warehousing and logistics, in 1986 and has grown to become a skip hire, recycling and waste specialist across London and the South East. The company began life as a haulage operator, based in Leyton and operating across London and the home counties. In 1995, it progressed into skip hire, recycling and waste services. Needing to expand, the business leased an additional depot in Basildon in 2001. This enabled GBN to better serve the Essex area, expand its services and grow the business.

In 2005, it made its first acquisition with the purchase of NSM in Southgate. The expansion continued throughout the past decade with the purchase of RCL Skips (2005), Eco Logic and F Darlington (2006), Churn Waste (2007) and Ace Waste (2008). GBN went on to acquire Uxbridge Recycling and Bridgeman Skips in 2011 and, finally, Hunts Waste in 2012.

GBN’s most recent developments have included an upgrade of its existing facilities and a new installation at its Basildon facility, where the company invested in equipment to enable it to bale and wrap materials that cannot be further reused or recycled. At this stage they are sent as refuse-derived fuel to generate energy. GBN Services is a privately owned company.

Technical data: Dokon 275H

Pressing force: 82 (802) t (kN) Spec. pressing force: 91 N/cm2 Bale cross-section: 80x110cm Hopper opening: 160x102cm Feeding volume: 2.1 ca. m3 Number of twine tyings: 4 pieces Driving power:15kW, 22kW, 37kW, 45kW, 55kW, 75kW, 2x37kW & 2x45kW

Throughput: From 14t/hour to 48t/ hour (based on input density of material at 150kg/m3)

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