Recycling’s Silicon Valley
As Northern Ireland continues to be a major player in the materials handling market, Unearthed speaks with key stakeholders about the role equipment ingenuity can play in Australia’s circular economy transition.
Despite its relatively small landmass and a population of just 1.88 million, Northern Ireland is home to one of the world’s most successful clusters of engineering companies. In fact, almost half of all tracked mobile crushing and screening products in over 100 countries are made in Northern Ireland.
For more than 50 years, mobile equipment from the region has provided solutions for the processing of sand, aggregate and other bulk materials. More recently, this technology has become a solution of choice in reclaiming substantial value from waste which would otherwise end up in landfill.
Over half a century ago in Northern Ireland, Powerscreen and Finlay, both now Terex brands, developed mobile screening systems that revolutionised the way quarries separated and sorted aggregate.
The mobile screening solution allowed aggregate producers to increase production without expensive capital investment in static installations. This also avoided the often difficult and prolonged planning and legislative constraints when producers wanted to add capacity at their quarry.
Furthermore, the mobile solution enabled rock and stone processing to be done closer to the point of blasting, thereby saving time and transportation costs. Very quickly and efficiently, the quarry owner could increase production.
The same concepts are now being applied to the problem of bulk waste, with Northern Ireland equipment used across the world to reduce and sort waste – turning expensive and environmentally sensitive waste mountains into valuable and profitable new revenue streams.
To showcase these solutions and assist Australia’s circular economy transition, nine Northern Ireland companies are exhibiting at the Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo.
Covering a range of processing solutions and material streams, the companies are BlueMAC Manufacturing, bmi trailers, CDE Global, Terex Washing Systems, EDGE Innovate, Kiverco, Sensoteq, Smiley Monroe and CK International.
The virtual stand is spearheaded by Invest NI, the regional economic development agency for Northern Ireland, with its Australia and New Zealand Regional Trade and Investment Director Peter Hendrikssen commenting that he is delighted that the virtual delegation represents a wide range of technologies and processing solutions.
“Northern Ireland’s materials processing equipment is already highly regarded within Australia’s mining, construction and quarrying sectors for its quality and durability. It is a natural fit in providing solutions to Australia’s recycling sector,” Hendrikssen says.
The companies speak
CK International is a leading supplier of waste compaction equipment, manufacturing an extensive range of customisable balers to provide bespoke solutions for its customers.
According to the company’s International Sales Manager Natasha Mitchell, Northern Ireland’s position within the waste and recycling equipment market is largely driven by the country’s strong entrepreneurial attitude.
“A magazine editor from England once described Northern Ireland to me as the Silicon Valley of engineering,” she says.
The market is expanding, Mitchell adds, with the effects of producer responsibility, deposit return schemes and consumer behaviour shining a spotlight of the importance of sustainability.
“The recycling market is changing so much every year and new technology needs to be incorporated into machines to help customers overcome the challenges they face. The equipment needs to make the customer’s businesses more efficient and help reduce their costs,” she says.
CK International have the ability to offer effective solutions to help companies compact their waste, reduce transport costs and improve their efficiencies.
“In Northern Ireland, we are not afraid to try new things when it comes to developing our machinery. When customers ask for weird and wonderful things, we always give it a go,” Mitchell says.
“Our engineering teams are great at innovating and developing new products. It could be that entrepreneurial attitude that’s engrained in us.”
Similarly, Con Gallagher, Kiverco Global Sales Manager, explains that Northern Ireland has had a vibrant and sizeable engineering sector for more than 150 years.
“Ship building was a huge industry here in the 19th century, with thousands of people employed to build some of the world’s largest and most prestigious luxury liners, the Titanic included.”
It’s important to add, Gallagher says, we are home to two of the best universities in the world, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, which turn out 300 plus engineers every year, many of whom take up positions in Northern Ireland.
“John Finlay started a small blockmaking business in 1953 and added a screening business in 1958. From there, the industry we now know grew and has become the largest provider of static and mobile equipment for the material processing industry,” he says.
“Household names such as CDE, Powerscreen, Finlay, McCloskey, and Kiverco manufacture and distribute top class equipment across the globe and have helped transform the material processing industry.”
Gallagher notes that the global aggregates industry has a wide spectrum of regulations and specifications for the use of recycled aggregates. He adds, however, that volumes used will increase significantly, with more and more developing markets getting on board with a recycling focus.
“Kiverco will play a key role in the growth of the recycling sector as we have the technology today that will help companies recover more and more recyclable product in the future,” Gallagher says.
“With over 300 waste recovery plants working worldwide and a reputation for robust, reliable and high performing solutions, Kiverco is a company the waste recycling sector should consider if they are thinking of investing in a waste plant.”
Ryan Wright, International Sales Manager of conveyor belt experts Smiley Monroe, expresses an added practical view, highlighting the need to export due to smaller domestic markets as a key driver behind Northern Ireland’s significant international market share.
He adds that quarries, sand and gravel pits in Northern Ireland are constrained by land mass, suggesting the solution to saving space and negotiating difficult terrain was equipment that is compact, adaptable and mobile.
“It’s important for us to understand that every market is different, with its own unique economic and environmental drivers,” Wright says.
“Having been a supplier to the Australian market for many years, Smiley Monroe is well placed to serve the expanding Australian waste and recycling sector with high quality, competitively priced, heavy duty and cleated conveyor belting.”
Terex Washing Systems is a correspondingly large market player, with its long heritage in crushing, screening and washing stretching back more than 60 years through Terex Finlay and Powerscreen.
“As these brands went from strength to strength around the world, Northern Ireland became synonymous with this industry and has been established as a hub for innovation and excellence within the industry,” James Murphy, Terex Australia and New Zealand Regional Sales Manager says.
“In recent years, there has been a shift in European markets towards recycling of C&D waste to reuse sand and aggregates. This helps preserve earth’s precious natural resources and also reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill.”
Equipment from Northern Ireland is renowned for taking C&D waste and turning it back into valuable materials, and as a global market leader, Terex has been present in the Australian market for decades.
“In continuing to offer the latest innovations in the industry, both Terex and the Australian market have been able to mutually benefit from one another. Australia has access to the best equipment and Terex is able to grow market share,” Murphy says.
While the quality of Northern Ireland’s equipment manufacturing in undisputed, the country is also home to Sensoteq, which designs and manufactures bespoke wireless sensors for remote machine health monitoring.
Waste and recycling plants aim to minimise the consumption of natural resources and reduce the overall pollution caused by the generation of waste. Sensoteq’s remote wireless solution can help run these sites more efficiently by monitoring different assets across the plant from shredders to air handlers, including all vibrating equipment.
Idir Boudaoud, Sensoteq Founder and CEO, explains that the company’s products are easy to install on existing equipment and machinery, and with 24/7 remote monitoring capabilities, plants are able to run more efficiently.
“The waste and recycling market is rapidly growing globally, as more countries are putting efforts to reduce their total environmental impact,” he says.
“Sensoteq’s system is a perfect fit to this industry and we see it as a direct expansion to our mining and quarrying product offerings.”
Lessons for AUstralia
BlueMAC Manufacturing specialises in the design and manufacture of cutting-edge recycling systems, MRFs and bespoke machinery.
According to Sean McBride, BlueMAC International Sales Manager, the company’s innovative approach is largely market driven, with the UK and Northern Ireland waste markets experiencing increased demand for higher purity levels in recovered products.
As such, the BlueMAC team is continuously researching new technologies so it can offer solutions that meet its customers’ throughput capacity and purity level needs.
“BlueMAC has been active in the Australian market for over five years, and have gained a great insight and knowledge into the Australian market,” McBride says.
“Our engineers understand the complex compliance requirements for the construction of waste plants. Whether building a complex plant in Australia or a simple system to separate C&D waste in the UK, we can meet all regulations.”
McBride explains that BlueMAC has the global reach and expertise to execute challenging and complex projects, large or small. He adds that with significant investment throughout Australia in recent years towards static waste processing facilities, it’s clear there is a genuine appetite for the drive towards zero waste.
Brendan McIlvanna, bmi trailers Managing Director, expresses similar sentiments.
“From a visit made in conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland, we learnt a lot about the Australian market, by communicating and most importantly listening to operators in Australia,” he says.
“We see a change coming as a result of the new restrictions from China, and with Asian countries and the importation of waste for processing.”
bmi trailers, which is celebrating 20 years in business this year, are the longest established manufacturer and supplier for waste transfer trailers in the UK and Ireland.
At bmi, constant design and innovation is evidenced by some of the most revolutionary new market concepts they have on offer within their waste spec.
“The immediate challenge now for Australia is to look inward at how it can develop new techniques to reinvent waste, which is very reminiscent of where Ireland and the UK were almost 20 years ago,” McIlvanna says.
“Private sector companies and some of the global waste management players stepped forward and blazed a trail, from waste being a problem to it being a valuable resource.”
McIlvanna adds that while new legislation will drive profit and fuel development, it will work best if authorities watch and learn from the countries who have walked the path before.
“bmi’s part in this is to bring transfer trailers to this new market that work, are efficient, safe and robust,” he says.
With landfill diversion targets and tax continuing to rise across Australia, waste transfer stations are under increasing pressure to extract and recover the maximum volume of recyclable materials from their diverse waste streams, EDGE Innovate Territory Sales Manager Tom Connolly explains.
Facilitating that extraction is central focus for EDGE Innovate, who’s range of products have been designed to provide the most efficient and cost-effective recycling process possible.
“Obtaining the quickest return on your capital investment depends on how quickly operators can be up and running, and the volume of commodities that an operator can recover from their waste stream,” Connolly says.
“EDGE Innovate’s range of mobile solutions are tried and tested, are quick and easy to set up, require no on-site civil works, represent a low capital outlay and are proven to achieve high commodity recovery levels.”
Similarly, CDE’s Regional Manager Australasia Daniel Webber highlights significant growth in the Australian resource recovery market. He notes a number of key trends, such as soil remediation and an expanding proliferation of fixed plants.
“There’s serious investment in recycling now, and that supports a higher level of capital expenditure, which in turn leads to more confidence to invest in large scale fixed plants for a variety of waste streams,” he says.
CDE has installed and commissioned projects across Australia, from Perth to Bundaberg. Highlights include projects in the industrial sands, C&D waste recycling and sand and aggregates sectors.
According to Webber, Northern Ireland’s position in the waste and recycling equipment market comes down to access to raw materials, a strong labour base and the clustering effect of companies and intelligence feeding into one another.
“What we can learn from our experience in Europe is that the benchmark is only going to get higher. Previously, recycled material was seen as second rate,” Webber says.
“But what we’re seeing now is that the people treating these waste streams and returning it to market are looking to create a material that is as good as virgin material. That’s a big part of our development plan and vision.”
For more information visit: investni.com/awre