The fully automated waste sorting plant ROAF maximizes recovery rates thanks to TOMRA’s sorters

La planta automatizada de clasificación de residuos, ROAF, maximiza las tasas de recuperación gracias a las clasificadoras TOMRA

Opened in 2014, ROAF is a fully automated waste sorting plant featuring TOMRA’s optical sorters and ranks second in sorting municipal solid waste by volume in Norway.

Since it abolished the separate collection of plastics, the facility could boost its recovery rates of organics and plastics while maximizing its recycling efforts and keeping environmental impact low. Not only does the plant come closer to reaching EU’s 2025 plastics recycling rates of 50% %, but also uses the organics recovered for biogas production and the fueling of its waste collection trucks.

The facility is situated in Skedsmokorset, near Oslo, and collects and sorts waste from 7 surrounding municipalities. Until seven years ago, plastics have been collected separately curbside, just as paper and cardboard and residual waste. Unfortunately, a lot of recyclables still ended up in the household waste fraction and were thus deemed to be burnt.

To optimize resource recovery and mitigate the negative impact of incineration TOMRA and ROAF jointly examined the household waste composition and came up with a new business model to introduce a new waste management approach for the seven municipalities served.

Mixed waste sorting drives up resource recovery

Based on a detailed analysis and various tests carried out with municipal solid waste examples from the region in TOMRA’s Test Center in Germany and locally in Norway, the partners developed a new business model. The new approach includes a change in the region’s waste management and collection practices and the construction of a new sorting facility.

Once the organics along with the residues collected curbside arrive at the sorting plant it is fed into the facility. First, three of TOMRA’s AUTOSORT™ systems separate green bags from the remaining waste. Whereas the green bags are sent to a biogas site, where the organics are converted into biogas for refueling the plant’s collection trucks and bio-fertilizers, the remaining waste bags undergo further sorting steps. Different drum screens separate the materials by size before ballistic separators and 16 highly precise AUTOSORT™’s undertake a much more precise differentiation by material type.

Thanks to the sensor-based sorting units’ advanced technologies including NIR and VIS, five different types of plastics (LDPE, HDPE, PP, PET, and mixed plastics), as well as paper, can be accurately separated from the infeed material. In the last step, magnets and eddy-current separators remove metallic fractions. All individual fractions generated are stored in bunkers and sold to European processors, who turn the materials into high-quality recyclates.

In 2014, the plant has already set itself ambitious targets, but looking back the combination of process optimization and the latest equipment has led to a considerable increase in the recovery of plastics and municipal solid waste. Moreover, whereas in 2014 sorting targets were set at 2,500 tons of plastics and 6,000 tons of organics per year, the capacity in 2021 reaches 3.600 tons for plastics and 11500tons for biowaste.

Finally, since the automation of the plant in 2014, manual sorting efforts are no longer required, and personnel could be allocated to other tasks within the company. Looking at the long-term objectives, ROAF aims to build on its current achievements and the experience gathered to reach reuse and recycling rates of 70% in 2030. Its ambition is in line with the targets set by the EU which demand plastic recycling rates of 55% and those of municipal solid waste of 60% by 2030.

TOMRA’s contribution to system change

ROAF and its system change can be seen as a best practice example for optimized waste management and recycling. Although this system is not applicable to all countries because of non-homogenous infrastructures, in this case the plastics and waste recovery rates are higher when plastics are not collected separately but together with organics and residues in the municipal solid waste container. But the success would not be as good without the proper technology. The combination of an efficient waste management and advanced sorting technologies makes mixed waste sorting win the game in the South of Norway and ROAF rank second in processing household waste by volume in Norway.

Joint forces working towards a common goal

Making a difference and enabling change don’t come alone. It requires smooth and targeted collaboration, a common goal, and vision. The Norwegian waste management company pursued the vision to level up recycling rates and exploit the full value of our resources before they are lost. To turn its ambition into reality, choosing the right partners became crucial.

Finally, three purpose-driven companies in the sector, namely ROAF, TOMRA, and STADLER, joint efforts to turn ROAF’s visions into reality and show that there is not only one approach to efficient waste management and that collaboration is a door-opener when it comes to advancing recycling.