Geocycle and UNTHA: A partnership looking to the future

In an effort to pursue the company’s zero waste ambitions, Geocycle LLC uses an Untha XR mobli-e waste shredder to produce refuse-derived fuel.

Since the 1970s, Dundee, Michigan-based Geocycle LLC, a part of the global Geocycle network, has developed tailored industrial and municipal waste management services for its customers. With Switzerland-based building material producer LafargeHolcim under the Geocycle brand, the company says it is uniquely positioned to offer sustainable solutions for managing waste.

Partnering with industries, service companies and municipalities to help them achieve their environmental commitments, Geocycle employs the methods of “preprocessing” and “co-processing” to offer its customers an environmentally friendly solution for handling waste.

According to Nicolae Cuzuioc, director of processing expertise and business development for Geocycle North America, employing these methodologies enables the company to recover energy and recycle materials from different sources of waste.

“Co-processing is the use of waste as a raw material, or as a source of energy, to replace natural mineral resources and fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and gas in the cement manufacturing process,” he says. Currently, Geocycle converts more than 2 million tons of waste per year into alternative fuels and alternative raw material (ARM).

Before this waste byproduct can be used directly for co-processing into Geocycle’s cement kilns, it must undergo a preparation process called preprocessing. The company says this step delivers a stable product that complies with the technical specifications of cement production and guarantees that environmental standards are met.

“Co-processing is the use of waste as a raw material, or as a source of energy, to replace natural mineral resources and fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and gas in the cement manufacturing process,” –Nicolae Cuzuioc, director of processing expertise and business development for Geocycle North America

“The goal is to use more than 5 million tons of waste per year in our LafargeHolcim North America and third-party operations,” says Cuzuioc.

To help further Geocycle’s efforts to achieve a zero waste future through preprocessing and co-processing, the company invested in a XR mobli-e waste shredder from Untha Shredding Technology, Austria, via a U.S. subsidiary, Untha America Inc., based in Hampton, New Hampshire, in 2019.

The mobile unit features two 177-horsepower motors that process nonhazardous, postindustrial waste for the production of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) that will be used for energy recovery at LafargeHolcim’s Holly Hill, South Carolina, cement plant.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Geocycle’s nearby Dorchester, South Carolina, facility was previously operating three shredders, two single-shaft shredders and a dual-shaft machine produced by other manufacturers for the preprocessing of waste. But, as damage from unshreddables began to restrict the performance of this incumbent shredding technology, Geocycle made the switch to the XR shredder to facilitate single-pass RDF production.

“I have long been familiar with this brand of equipment, not least because there are a number of Untha shredders in operation in Geocycle facilities worldwide. However, the technology hasn’t previously been right for my co-processing requirements here in Dorchester,” said Cuzuioc in a 2019 release. “When I heard about the new Untha mobil-e and the machine’s ability to handle a number of complex input materials, I was extremely interested. We took delivery of a demo unit from Untha America in late 2018 so that we could trial the shredding technology using our own waste, and it quickly proved such a crucial part of our plant that we retained ownership of this machine until our own machine arrived.”

The shredder arrived at Geocycle’s Dorchester site in late August of last year.

“The Untha XR series has been designed by waste specialists who have lived and breathed this industry for decades and worked closely with operators to understand the true requirements of modern shredding technology,” says Gary Moore, director of global business development for Untha America. “In other words, the machines have been purposefully engineered to solve real industry challenges—in this instance, the environmentally efficient, profitable production of on-specification alternative fuels such as RDF.”

According to Moore, the XR shredder has been designed with input material flexibility in mind. It features a ram-assist feed that helps to handle tougher materials, and different open- and closed-door hopper options equates to added versatility.

“Within a range, there are varying rotor lengths, speed settings and torque capabilities. For example, the safety clutch and high-torque gearbox means materials that some operators may even consider ‘unshreddable’ can now be processed with the XR,” Moore says.

Geocycle uses the XR shredder to preprocess a mix of solids, sludge and some liquids.

“The Untha shredder is very robust … therefore we are [using] it to size [material] from 25 millimeters up to 100 millimeters, [which is] produced from various streams of commercial, industrial and municipal solid waste,” Cuzuioc says. “We also plan to trial it for construction and demolition (C&D) waste that has a high percentage of biomass to help with reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.”

TRANSFORMING WASTE

Geocycle’s RDF production process begins with the company’s sales team finding waste streams that have the proper chemical and physical characteristics, then prequalifying the samples in its labs and shredding platforms.

“Trial loads are delivered to Geocycle’s industrial preprocessing platform for a shredding trial where we test how suitable the type of waste is for the XR shredder and what the potential operation costs are,” says Cuzuioc.