As the first sensor-based sorting solutions provider with a dedicated team for the wood recycling segment, TOMRA Recycling hopes to drive further developments in waste wood recycling through innovative technology and consultancy support to improve industry processes. 

Thanks to its state-of-the-art sensor-based sorting technologies and longstanding partnerships with wood-based panel manufacturers, TOMRA Recycling is helping to maximise the use and recycling of waste wood. 

Following the recent launch of its new deep-learning-based sorting application which separates wood by type, the company has today announced the formation of a dedicated wood segment team. 

With a newly appointed wood segment manager, highly skilled waste wood application specialists and service key account managers, TOMRA is strategically investing firstly to offer solutions to recycle waste wood that weren’t available until now and, secondly, to boost the quality of recycled content material to meet the quality requirements of wood-based panel manufacturers for use in the manufacture of new products.

New opportunities in waste wood recycling

Currently, the primary use of recycled waste wood is in chipboard manufacturing. The wood-based panel industry aims to meet very high market demand for recycled waste wood and to improve product quality by increasing recycled content, resulting in a twofold benefit for the manufacturer. Recycled wood is up to 40% cheaper than green wood and generally drier, resulting in significantly lower energy consumption during the drying stage of panel production. 

Jose Matas, Segment Manager Wood at TOMRA Recycling, comments: “Current market developments present wood-based panels manufacturers with a huge opportunity. Using high-quality recycled materials allows them to produce superior quality wood-based panels and achieve higher yields and outputs while profiting from considerable cost reductions, preserving natural resources and decreasing CO2 emissions.” 

Despite the advantages of waste wood recycling and market trends, a lack of infrastructure impedes the sector’s development. While Central Europe performs well in waste wood management – from collection to recycling and reuse – the waste wood market outside Central Europe is still in its infancy. Market insight reveals considerable discrepancies in segment maturity and opportunities for growth. In Italy, for example, around 2 million metric tonnes of waste wood are collected annually, of which 63% is recycled and turned into panel boards. As a result, approximately 2 million tonnes of CO2 are saved annually, positively impacting the country’s environmental credentials1. In comparison, the European Union and the United States leave approximately 100 million tonnes of waste wood unrecycled annually.2  The figures show untapped opportunities that can be exploited by implementing holistic resource systems to effectively collect, sort and recycle waste wood. 

Unleashing the power of sensor-based sorting

For chipboard manufacturers to increase recycled content and promote sustainable wood management, they require optimised processes and advanced technologies to recover pure material fractions from a waste wood infeed stream. As such, recyclers and chipboard manufacturers are encouraged to invest in the appropriate sorting technology to keep pace with industry demands and evolve with the market. 

New sorting technology quickly adapts to changing waste compositions, increasing purity demands and recovering single fractions. Integrating a wood sorting solution in recycling and production plants enables recyclers and manufacturers to separate non-processed wood (wood A) and processed wood (wood B) from complex mixed waste streams, and to use the purest materials to produce high-quality chipboard on an industrial scale. 

The ideal solution comprises two sorting systems; a high-throughput unit for removing inert material and metals alongside a state-of-the-art optical sorter with an integrated deep learning technology to separate waste wood into different material grades. 

Since 2012, TOMRA has been sorting waste wood to recover high purity clean woodchips. With TOMRA’s X-TRACT unit, recyclers and chipboard manufacturers can remove impurities such as inert materials, metals and glass using x-ray transmission (XRT) technology and can deliver outstanding purity levels for secondary raw materials. A variety of wood-based materials, including engineered wood composites and polymers, must be accurately detected and separated into single fractions when creating recycled wood content that meets manufacturing standards. Only woodchip products with the highest quality (wood A) can replace virgin materials in the production of wood-based panels, hence a new solution had to be found. 

TOMRA’s in-house team of industry experts, application engineers and software developers collaborated to develop a new deep-learning-based application to sort wood chips by type. Available as an add-on for the company’s high-performing AUTOSORT®, GAIN is trained to detect, analyse and separate non-processed wood (wood A) and processed wood (wood B). Moreover, it identifies and fully separates the MDF found in processed wood streams, therefore producing individual wood fractions of the highest possible quality for use in the production of superior quality chipboards and MDF boards.

As TOMRA’s mechanics, sensors and software are developed in-house, customers profit from fully aligned machines and an optimally-performing system, enabling them to increase their overall yield and profits.

Fabrizio Radice, Vice President and Head of Global Sales and Marketing at TOMRA Recycling, concludes: “TOMRA is fully committed to circular waste management, so I am delighted that we have now extended our focus to the wood recycling segment with a dedicated team that brings a wealth of experience and vast knowledge. The team’s expertise combined with our latest technologies will help recyclers and chipboard manufacturers meet the demands of both markets and exploit the full potential of their operations while minimising environmental impacts. Over the coming years, we plan to invest heavily in this developing segment and facilitate opportunities for the waste material of one company to become a valuable resource for another, fully closing the loop on waste wood.”

TOMRA Recycling

TOMRA Recycling designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the recycling and waste management industry. More than 7,400 systems are installed in 100 countries around the world.

Responsible for the development of the world’s first infrared sensor for waste recycling applications, TOMRA Recycling is a pioneer in the field and through its sensors recovers high-purity fractions from the waste stream that maximize yield and customer benefits.

TOMRA Recycling is part of TOMRA Sorting Solutions, which develops sensor-based sorting and process control systems for the food, mining and other industries. TOMRA Sorting is owned by Norway’s TOMRA Systems ASA, which is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Founded in 1972, TOMRA Systems ASA has sales of approximately €985 million and employs more than 4,300 people.

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