The world champion in glass is about to get even better

Sweden is the best country in the world at recycling glass. An important part of this work takes place at Svensk Glasåtervinning (Swedish Glass Recycling), which recycles glass containers from all across Sweden. Their processing plant is the only one of its kind, yet the company is upgrading its entire control system in order to optimize productivity and improve the quality of the glass it sells to its customers. FVB has been enlisted to upgrade the system and the plan is for it to be up and running by the autumn.

The processing plant is located in Hammar, on the northern tip of Lake Vättern and operates 24 hours a day, five days a week. Approximately 25 lorries laden with waste glass arrive every day. The glass is sorted by colour (green, brown and clear) and washed and about one third of it is pulverized. But several important steps are involved in order to produce the product that the customers require, because it is not just waste glass that ends up in the recycling bins up and down the country. – We find stones, ceramics, organic material, and metals etc., things that need to be removed. The first screening is done by hand, says Ulf Hellström, Head of Technology, Environment and Quality at Svensk Glasåtervinning.

Glasbitar

Screening glass fragments

The next stage is optical sorting, using mainly cameras. – Almost every fragment of glass is screened, and those fragments and particles that cannot be screened are removed using compressed air. The entire operation takes just thousandths of a second and is carried out with high precision while the glass is moving along a conveyor belt. For that reason, cameral control is of the utmost importance, Ulf Hellström explains.

Even the colour sorting is carried out by machines. The fragments are photographed and the colour of every piece is identified, allowing us to differentiate between brown glass and green, for example.

Unnecessary detective work

Since most of the processing plant is automated, it is essential that everything works as faultlessly as possible. Current technology is based on an older system but now that FVB is updating it, there will be an improvement in quality.

– Our work here comprises of two elements, one of which is to upgrade the old system. We carried out a feasibility study that showed that ABB had a system that would meet the customer’s requirements. Svensk Glasåtervinning was already using an ABB system and by using their system throughout it would become well integrated and simple for the staff to run, says Peter Eklund at FVB, who, together with colleague Anders Jansson, is responsible for the work.  

– The other element involves cleaning up programme codes. There are currently a number of old codes that are difficult to understand and even some in German from a previous system. Finding errors requires some detective work, since the names in different parts of the system are difficult to understand. We are going to change that, so that when an error arises it will be easy for operating staff to identify and rectify it quickly, says Peter Eklund.

High customer demands

The finished products from the processing plant are sold to customers that manufacture glass containers, glass wool and foam glass. A third of the material is sold to the glass wool industry in Sweden and Norway and for that purpose the glass is crushed into a fine powder resembling sand. A smaller amount of the material is sold to customers that manufacture foam glass; a relatively new product that is used to reinforce the foundations of roads and buildings. The remaining material, which consists of glass fragments in different colours, is sold to glassworks in Scandinavia and other European countries.

The company’s main customer is the glassworks in Limmared in Västergötland, which manufactures glass packaging for food as well as the internationally famous vodka bottle. – There is an extremely high demand on the glass for the vodka bottles, but customers in general are becoming more demanding, which means smaller margins for us. With the help of a better control system and the possibility to rectify errors quickly, we will be in a position to improve the quality of our products and increase production. We are really looking forward to the new system and the improvements that are being made, says Ulf Hellström.

Lengthy collaboration

Ulf Hellström is very pleased that they enlisted the help of FVB. – We have been working together with FVB for many years. They have excellent knowledge of the ABB system, something that not many other companies have. The company also has a great deal of expertise, they have always been there for us when we have needed help and they have local knowledge of our processing plant. We definitely feel safe in their hands, says Ulf Hellström.  

For further information, contact Peter Eklund on 021-81 80 64

Facts

There are 6000 glass collection sites in Sweden. FTI (the Packaging and Newspaper Collection Service) is responsible for these sites and all the glass is sent to Svensk Glasåtervinning in Hammar. Svensk Glasåtervinning currently recycles 90 per cent of all glass containers in Sweden; a figure that is significantly higher than the statutory 70 per cent and the highest figure in the world.