The first cut

Features - Equipment Focus | Grinding & Shredding

By using alligator shears for initial size reduction, recyclers can reduce stress on primary shredders and lower operating costs.

August 30, 2022

© Teemu Tretjakov | stock.adobe.com

Because shredders are designed for specific material types and sizes, their costs often correlate not only with their power use but also with the maximum size of the material to be shredded. Therefore, when shredding oversize scrap is necessary, an initial size-reduction step with a separate shearing system could be the solution.

The concept is simple: reduce the material to a manageable size and then process it through more affordable, small and midsized shredders. This lowers operating costs and eliminates the need to transport bulky or long items intact to other locations for shredding.

To this end, portable, gas-powered hydraulic alligator shears have been developed that quickly can cut oversized tires, building materials, sheet metal, wood and plastic into smaller pieces so they can be shredded or hauled to landfills more efficiently.

Alligator shears are critical tools to have on hand when the size, shape or composition of material requires initial size reduction before shredding. As a type of shearing machine, alligator shears are characterized by the hinged opening of the cutting blades, which creates a tight shearing action when hydraulically closed.

Although alligator shears are well-established in the recycling industry, most are stationary models. When designed to be portable, however, alligator shears can be towed to any site to perform initial size reduction, so material does not have to be transported elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of BCA Industries

“A portable platform allows the initial size reduction to be performed on-site, instead of first transporting the oversize material to a stationary shear located elsewhere and then possibly having to transport it again for final shredding,” says John Neuens, industrial consultant for Milwaukee-based BCA Industries, which designs and develops a wide variety of professional recycling equipment and accessories.


Neuens says alligator shears often are used in tire recycling applications to reduce the oversized tires found on semitrailers, passenger trucks or construction vehicles. Recyclers often avoid processing oversized tires if they are too large to shred. In doing so, however, they miss out on profitable disposal fees, as well as the sales value of reclaimable scrap, such as rubber compounds, steel wire and synthetic or natural fibers.

“When recyclers cannot shred larger tires, they shy away from what can be a lucrative revenue source,” Neuens explains. “Since many tires and materials are too large to be easily transported, portable equipment can cut the tire down to size on-site so it can be processed by a more affordable sized shredder.”

In response to what he describes as the gap in market offerings, Neuens says his company developed a product that facilitates reducing the size of tires and other oversized materials before shredding. The result is BCA’s portable PGS100 hydraulic shear, which enables recyclers to shear any passenger truck, semitrailer, construction or off-road vehicle tire up to 48 inches in diameter, for instance. Other materials of similar size also can be reduced in size prior to being fed to a shredder.

Neuens explains, “There was a need for a large portable alligator shear in the market, so we designed and manufactured a lightweight, towable system at the request of some of our recycling customers.”

The unit’s 26.5-horsepower hydraulic drive provides the power to automatically lift tires and other bulky forms of scrap onto the mobile platform and shear them into more manageable pieces.

“When you are dealing with 100- to 150-pound tires, you need the equipment to lift the tire onto the platform before it is sheared,” Neuens says.

In addition to tires, the mobile alligator shears can be used to cut to size a wide variety of end-of-life materials that must be divided into pieces before being fed into a shredder for further processing.

“[Alligator shears are] designed to be versatile, so [they] can be used on anything like building materials, sheet metal and wood or plastic items that need to be cut before being shredded or further processed,” Neuens says. “The idea is to broaden the range of materials that recyclers can profitably process into saleable scrap.”

The author is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.