Cutting edge

Written by: Steed Webzell | Published:

Steed Webzell looks at some of the trends likely to shape the industrial shredder market in the coming few years, as well as a selection of machines that are leading the way

Technavio’s latest report on the global industrial shredder machine market ( provides an interesting analysis of the most important emerging trends expected to impact the sector from 2017-2021. The top three are listed as: growing sales of electric vehicles; evolution of waste management techniques to suit low-grade ores; and stringent nuclear reactor regulations post-Fukushima.

“The adoption of electric vehicles has increased due to advances in technology and government incentives,” explains Gaurav Mohindru, a lead analyst at Technavio for unit operations research. “Western Europe is witnessing explosive growth of the electric vehicle market, with manufacturers expanding their factory floors to meet increasing orders. Investments of this nature are expected to boost the demand
for shredding machines, thereby driving market growth.”

With regard to the second trend, demand for industrial shredders is directly affected by the volume of waste that is generated at mining sites, which in turn is dependent on the grade of ore being mined. With increasing numbers of mines close to depletion, the quality of
ores being extracted has declined, resulting in higher quantities of waste that needs to be shredded. As companies are adopting advanced technologies to lower the operating cost of treatment, membrane separation, sulphide treatment and metal recovery,
the demand for industrial shredders is also likely to increase.

As for the sensitive nature of nuclear energy, this has always resulted in governments being vigilant regarding safety. However, the Fukushima earthquake in Japan had unforeseen consequences, despite ensuring that every precaution had been followed. Post this incident, governments around the world have become even more cautious about the management of waste generated by nuclear power plants.

“Nuclear reactors around the world are being upgraded with the latest safety features to improve performance and reduce levels of harmful waste,” says Mohindru. “This is likely to have a positive impact on the industrial shredder market.”

Shredding WEEE

Among those sure to be interested in these emerging trends, especially in the growth of electric vehicles, is Untha, which already has a strong track record in the manufacture of solutions for the shredding of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment). In fact, with 10.3 million tonnes produced every year in the EU, WEEE is posing a growing environmental and compliance challenge
for the recycling industry. Moreover, it is estimated that only a third of generated WEEE is collected for responsible processing throughout the EU, which highlights the significant level of progress required.

Despite this, there are some organisations making great strides in WEEE processing. In fact, one firm in the south of England has invested considerably in technology that will boost WEEE recovery, recycling and revenue rates: Altech Trading Co. Based in Southend, Altech predominantly handles redundant telecoms infrastructure and IT devices ranging from servers to circuit boards, typically processing around 2,500 tonnes of WEEE per year.

Altech’s managing director Colin Warren sets the scene: “While people may no longer have a use for an electrical item, this doesn’t mean it has reached the end of its life. In fact, even if the device itself is no longer functional, it can still retain significant value.”

With this is mind, the team at Altech has worked hard to establish a best practice process to liberate the high worth composite materials found within WEEE. The company’s first asset investment was a second-hand hammer mill. However, once up and running, this kit soon showed it could not achieve the particle refinement necessary to support an efficient recyclate recovery process.

Going back to the drawing board, further market research brought Altech to Untha, in particular the high-torque, slow-speed design of its four-shaft machines. It seemed that the precision cutters and screen featured on these machines would achieve a more sophisticated shred than if the WEEE is simply shattered with the company’s hammer mill. An Untha RS100 was installed soon after – a machine that can achieve fraction homogeneity down to the millimetre.

Devices ranging from modems and servers to computer towers and telecoms modules are now processed in the RS100 at rates of up to 1.5 tonnes per hour. The machine’s capacity will actually allow for greater throughput, but with a keen eye on quality, Altech is determined to not overwhelm downstream sorting equipment within the plant.

“We’re now processing WEEE that would have been uneconomic to handle without this Untha shredder on hand, which means more projects, reduced costs and greater revenue yield,” says Warren.

Plastics market

Another major growth area for the shredders market is plastics. According to the British Plastics Federation (BPF), nearly all types of plastics can be recycled. However, the extent to which they can be recycled depends on technical, economic and logistic factors.
The forecast for 2017, predicts the BPF, is that 3.25 million tonnes of plastic will be processed in the UK.

Among the latest machines designed specifically for plastics-shredding applications is the WKS single-shaft series from Weima, which is available with 1,400, 1,800 and 2,200mm working widths. The machines are said to be capable of shredding voluminous objects, tear-resistant fibres and film.

Among novel features is a newly designed material-feeding system. Instead of a horizontal ram, the latest-generation WKS series has a so-called ‘swing-ram’, which is guided on rolls. This is what makes the shredder compact and easy to maintain. It also allows a more aggressive material infeed.

The low-feeding point, with a height of only 2.2m, enables users to fill the hopper via a conveyor belt, forklift or by hand. All WKS shredding machines, which are available in the UK from Fercell, are suitable to be run as a standalone solution or as part of a multi-stage plant — a plastic-recycling line including an extrusion system, for example.

Further enhancements include an increased rotor diameter of 500mm. Depending on application requirements, WKS shredders come with a V-rotor for lumps, hollow and voluminous parts, or an F-rotor for fibres
and film.

Importantly, customers are able to choose from two drive concepts: a hydraulic drive or a more conventional electromechanical power-belt drive. Opting for the hydraulic drive, it is possible to stop, start and reverse the rotor at any point, even at full load in challenging conditions. Overload protection is achieved by installing a pressure-limiting valve and simply reversing the direction of rotation. Torque and rotational speed can be adjusted without creating current surges or having to use a frequency converter.

Grind it down

So, what of grinding machines? Well, these too are in growing demand. At CPM Europe, the company reports that it has recently delivered its biggest-ever hammer mill, an HM 64 x 81 model. Some two times bigger than CPM’s previous largest machine, the HM 64 x 81 has been sold to a company in Estonia via agent Hekotek. It will be used for grinding wood shavings, sawdust and micro-woodchips. Throughput is expected to be around 17-18 tonnes per hour, while screen size is 5.5mm and installed power capacity is 630kW.

With a number of emerging trends coming to prominence, there is a clear opportunity for shredding and grinding companies to win new contracts. However, only by investing in the latest enabling technologies is it possible to be at the front of the queue.

Fact file: Best-kept secret

Earlier this year, many national newspapers released items regarding an enquiry that has been launched into allegations that the Metropolitan Police shredded documents months after a probe into undercover policing began. While the case unfolds very publicly in the hands of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), hopefully some good will come of it for Shredall SDS Group.

“When selecting an information destruction company, steps should be taken to ensure they will protect your data until it has been safely destroyed,” says Shredall SDS CEO Lloyd Williams. “Often these steps are common sense, but surprisingly, the major consideration is the initial financial cost rather than the positive assurance gained from using an accredited destruction company.

“Companies should make sure their choice of company uses security-vetted personnel; that they have clear and secure procedures from collection through to destruction; that the appropriate destruction particle shred size has been selected for the material being destroyed; and that they provide a legally binding destruction certificate,” he adds.

Shredall SDS Group, which is this year celebrating its 20th year in business, recently invested £250,000 in a German-built Vecoplan shredding machine that has enabled the company to double output and take on more work.

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