Tomra Recycling assembles team dedicated to strengthening position in wood recycling segment

Tomra Recycling’s AUTOSORT technology (Image: Tomra)

Tomra Recycling has announced the establishment of a team focused on the wood segment. With a newly appointed segment manager, experts, waste wood application specialists, and service key account managers, Tomra is investing in enabling the material recycling of waste wood and thus bolstering recycled content for the wood-based panel industry, after its most recent market launch of a new deep-learning-based sorting application capable of separating wood by type.

With more than 7,400 systems installed around the world, Tomra Recycling designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the recycling and waste management industry.

New opportunities in waste wood recycling

Currently, recycled waste wood is primarily used in particleboard manufacturing. The wood-based panel industry aims to meet strong market demand and improve product quality by increasing recycled content, resulting in a twofold benefit for the manufacturer. Recycled wood is up to 40% cheaper than fresh wood and generally dryer, which results in a significant decrease in energy consumption during the drying stage of the panel production.

Jose Matas, segment manager wood at Tomra Recycling, commented: “The current market development offers a huge opportunity to wood-based panels manufacturers. Using high-quality recycled materials allows them to produce superior quality wood-based panels, achieve higher yields and outputs while profiting from considerable cost reductions, preserving natural resources, and decreasing CO2 emissions.”

Despite the advantages of wood waste recycling and market trends, a lack of infrastructure impedes the sector’s development. Whereas central Europe performs well in waste management from collection to recycling and reuse, the waste wood market outside Central Europe is still in its infancy.

A current view on the market reveals considerable discrepancies in segment maturity and opportunities for growth: Italy, for instance, collects about two million metric tonnes of waste wood annually, of which 63% is recycled and turned into panel boards. As a result, approximately two million tonnes of CO2 are saved annually, positively impacting the country’s environmental credentials. Opposed to Italy’s high-performing system for waste wood collection and recycling, the EU and the US alone leave approximately 100 million tonnes of waste wood unrecycled. The figures show untapped opportunities that can be exploited when implementing resource systems to effectively collect, sort, and recycle waste wood.

Sensor-based sorting

The particleboard manufacturer’s quest to increase recycled content and promote sustainable wood management requires optimised processes and advanced technologies to recover pure material fractions from a waste wood infeed stream. Thus, recyclers and particleboard manufacturers are advised to invest in the respective sorting technology to keep pace with industry demands and evolve with the market.

New sorting technology adapts to changing waste compositions, increasing purity demands and recovering single fractions. Integrating a wood sorting solution in recycling and production plants enables them to separate non-processed wood and processed wood from complex mixed waste stream and use the purest materials to produce high-quality particleboard on an industrial scale.

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

Since 2012, Tomra has been sorting waste wood for high purity clean wood chips. With Tomra’s X-TRACT, recyclers and particleboard manufacturers can remove impurities like inert materials, metals, and glass with X-Ray transmission (XRT) technology and deliver optimal 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 wood chip 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.

In pursuit of advancing and optimising solutions, 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 completely separates the medium-density fibreboard (MDF) found in processed wood streams, therefore producing individual wood fractions for being used in the production of higher quality particleboards and MDF boards. Since Tomra’s mechanics, sensors, and software are developed in-house, customers profit from matching machines and a system enabling them to increase their overall yield and profits.

Fabrizio Radice, vice president and head of global sales and marketing at Tomra Recycling, concluded: “Tomra is strongly committed to circular waste management. Thus, I am delighted that we extend our focus to the wood segment with a dedicated team that brings a wealth of experience and profound knowledge. The team’s expertise combined with our latest technologies will help recyclers and particleboard manufacturers meet both market demands and exploit the full potential of their operation while minimising environmental impacts. In the following years, we are going to invest a lot in this promising segment and aim to see that the waste of one company becomes a valuable resource for another – a scenario we support to become commonplace.”