recycled wood chipboard
Tomra says chipboard makers stand to be beneficiaries of its focus on automated scrap wood sorting.
Photo provided by Tomra Recycling.

Tomra sharpens focus on wood sorting, recycling

Sorting technology company forms team to concentrate on sorting, upgrading scrap wood.

January 31, 2022

Tomra Recycling says it has taken significant steps to strengthen its position in the wood recycling segment by building a dedicated team to offer sensor-based sorting solutions “to drive the development of waste wood recycling through technology and process improvement consulting.”

The Germany-based business unit of the Norway-based Tomra Group says it will continue to rely on its “well-established partnerships with manufacturers of wood-based panels” as it focuses on the effort.

As a follow-up to its launch of a new deep-learning-based sorting application capable of separating wood by type, Tomra says the team it is building will include “a newly appointed segment manager, industry-savvy experts, waste wood application specialists and key service account managers.”

States Tomra, “The wood-based panel industry aims to meet very 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 percent 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, says, “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.”

Currently, a lack of infrastructure impedes the sector’s development, Tomra says. Overall, the European Union and the United States “leave approximately 100 million tons of waste wood unrecycled,” the company adds, citing the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank as its source.

That figure, according to Tomra, points to “untapped opportunities that can be exploited when implementing holistic resource systems to effectively collect, sort and recycle waste wood.”

The technology provider continues, “The particleboard manufacturers’ quest to increase recycled content and promote sustainable wood management requires optimized 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.”

Integrating a wood sorting system at recycling facilities or at medium-density fiberboard (MDF) 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,” according to Tomra.

Tomra says two sorting systems—one a high-throughput unit for removing inert material and metals and the other an optical sorter with an integrated deep learning technology to separate waste wood into different material grades—is one potential solution.

The company says its X-Tract device can help recyclers and particleboard manufacturers remove impurities like inert materials, metals, and glass with x-ray transmission (XRT) technology and “deliver outstanding purity levels for secondary raw materials.” Its AutoSort GAIN, meanwhile, “is trained to detect, analyze and separate non-processed wood and processed wood.”

Only wood chip products with the highest quality scrap wood (type A) can replace virgin materials in the production of wood-based panels, says the company. Tomra says its application engineers and software developers collaborated to develop a new deep-learning-based application to sort wood chips by type to serve this market.

“Tomra is strongly committed to circular waste management, [and] 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,” remarks Fabrizio Radice, vice president and head of global sales and marketing at Tomra Recycling.

“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 minimizing environmental impacts,” adds Radice. “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.”