Americans discard an estimated 34 million tons of plastic each year, creating the need for more plastic recycling facilities in the United States. In September 2016, a brand new bottle recycling center opened in North Carolina to process about 75 million pounds of reusable plastic bottles. Prior to construction, the recycling company consulted with Tencarva Machinery to discuss rotating equipment that would be needed throughout the facility.
This new recycling facility is designed to receive large bales of compressed PET bottles—bales approximately 6 cubic feet in size. These bales are dismantled, and the bottles are sorted and shredded into much smaller plastic pieces prior to being sent through a series of processes. Because PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is semi-porous and typically absorbs food and beverage molecules, the shredded plastic must be finely chopped into “flakes” and thoroughly washed and dried. The cleaned, processed plastic is then bagged and distributed to other companies who use recycled plastics to manufacture consumer packaging, plastic banding, and a range of other goods.
The design engineers specifying the pumping systems worked with Derrick Heard at Tencarva, explaining that there would essentially be two sumps—a primary and a secondary pit—used for the rigorous cleaning process. During the initial grinding and cleaning, wash down water, plastic pieces, dirt, soap, scum, and residue would all be collected in the primary wash down sump. This material would then be pumped through clarifiers and screens to separate the plastic from the wash down wastewater. While the plastic would be sent through for drying, the wash down wastewater would be sent to the secondary pit. The pumps in the secondary sump would be responsible for reliably transporting the wash down wastewater to the on-site wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater would be treated on-site, with the facility technicians making sure all plastic and sludge had been removed prior to sending the wastewater downstream to the municipal sewer system.
After speaking with the design engineers, it was clear to Heard that there were some key requirements that needed to be considered in order to select the right pumps for these specific sump applications:
The pumps needed to withstand high temperatures. The temperature of the wash down water was estimated to reach temperatures between 131 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (55 and 60 degrees Celsius), which is too hot for standard submersible pump motors. Submersible pumps typically rely on the fluid being pumped to cool the motor; which is why most submersible pumps cannot withstand pumping liquids at temperatures higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) typically cause standard submersible motors to fail.
The pumps had to be corrosion-resistant. The wash down water would include cleaning chemicals that would cause the oatmeal-like slurry to be 2 percent caustic. For this reason, it was important to select a durable pump with the right metallurgy to minimize abrasion / corrosion.
The pumps must shred the plastic pieces. The plastic solids entering the primary sump needed to be shredded into even smaller pieces so they could be transported to the next stage of the process. This severe application required a shredder pump.
Heard immediately thought of BJM Pumps, explaining, “I knew BJM had a Fahrenheit Series—not just a submersible that could handle high temperatures, but one that could shred too. The combination is unique in the industry—and prior to BJM Pumps—there really wasn’t a high temperature option that could do all these things.”
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