There’s been a smell of all things dairy in the midlands recently and it’s down to UK-based materials handling and recycling solutions supplier, Summit Systems, who have taken on a side project that’s earning them pots of admirers.
‘Boomerang Plastics’, a bespoke facility set around the corner from Summit HQ in Tamworth, Staffordshire, has been specifically set up to recycle waste dairy packaging – a unique concept for the UK.
The supplier of the material is Müller Dairy – a major European producer of dairy products and packaging – producing six million yoghurts a day from its Market Drayton facility in the UK alone. Leanne Taylor donned her wellies to visit the Boomerang site and spoke to Summit Systems’ CEO, Mike Jordan, to find out why this project is not only great for the environment and business, but a whole host of farmers and their hungry pigs.
The relationship between Müller Dairy and Summit Systems began following a chance meeting at a trade exhibition. Müller Dairy had plans to reduce the amount of waste they were sending to landfill to zero by 2015.
“We were approached by Müller when they looked at the video of our recycling machinery on display at our stand and they asked if we could do the same with yoghurt pots,” said Mike Jordan, CEO of Summit Systems.
Following a lot of discussions and work by their design team, Summit Systems finally proposed the ground breaking idea that they would take on the task of recycling Müller Dairy’s waste themselves. A great leap of faith for an SME to invest in this type of operation, but Summit states it has never been a company to shirk away from challenges.
“We developed a recycling solution for Müller which incorporated 13 machines and diverted all of their waste from landfill, as well as creating a saleable plastic flake,” Mr Jordan continued.
The machine trials were successful so both companies agreed on a five-year contract where Müller would supply waste from its UK factory in Market Drayton and Summit would use the bespoke recycling line to recycle the waste at its Boomerang site.
Two years on from that first meeting and Boomerang Plastics went operational processing up to three tonnes an hour of plastic waste generated during Müller Dairy’s production process of yogurts, which consists of production waste (off-cuts and punch-outs) of Polystyrene with a heat-sealed metallised paper layer, and yoghurt contaminated plastic pots made of Polystyrene, HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), and Polypropylene and their respective foil and metallised film lids.
Not only does Boomerang provide a consistent solution for Müller Dairy’s production waste, but it creates a unique showcase recycling plant displaying the technologies of the material handling and recycling machinery that Summit offer – one that is not currently undertaken anywhere else in the UK.
“This isn’t a post-consumer recycling process – we are literally taking the waste from the factory and processing it. The idea is to showcase our technology. The key message behind this is that we are, and always will be, an equipment supplier. We just think it is so much better to be able to show a complete line working in realistic conditions as opposed to pointing something out in a brochure,” Mr Jordan added.
“It’s not big volumes – we are talking 1,000 tonnes a year of recycled material. But if we can divert plastic from landfill, provide a solution for Müller Dairy and earn a small return to justify running the plant, it gives us a showcase to demonstrate our technology, which means everyone’s a winner.”
Summit Systems’ technical engineers have worked diligently with Müller Dairy to design, adapt and manufacture the line of machinery that makes this project a reality – to take food contaminated plastic waste and convert to a clean flake plastic that can be reused in injection moulding and extrusion processes producing everything from coat hangers to stationery products and seed trays.
Boomerang Plastics is based on a separate site to the main Summit Systems facility and has created eight new jobs in the area. In its first few operating months the recycling line has processed over 400 tonnes of waste destined for landfill and has been able to accommodate Müller Dairy’s entire yoghurt pot production waste stream. As each month passes, the amount of recycled plastic material increases.
In summary, the recycling line consists of:
- Custom built storage bays for accepting the various plastic waste streams from Müller Dairy
- In feed conveyors and augers for transporting the waste to a de-packaging and granulation system
- Washing Plant – Initially, a cold wash system makes the first cleanse of the inbound granulated plastic waste. The residue removed from this process is then supplied as animal feed to local farmers. Later in the process, a complete hot washing system further cleans the flake removing any impurities
- Sorting Plant – both air separation and flotation technologies are used to sort good plastic from dust and to further sort different types of polymers
- Drying Plant – both centrifugal and heat drying technologies are employed to thoroughly dry the finished flake material
- Automatic Bagging Machinery for the resultant recycled plastic flake specifically designed and manufactured by Summit Systems
- The finished ‘tonne bags’ are then sold to plastic processors around the UK looking to use recycled Polystyrene in their process
And so, the loop is complete: to take food contaminated plastic waste and convert to a clean flake plastic that can be reused in plastics production whilst demonstrating and showcasing Summit Systems’ equipment.