The US recycling sector is making a “critical” contribution to the economy and the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In its Recycling Economic Information Report for 2020, the EPA shows how the industry supports nearly 700,000 jobs. And it’s thanks to technological advances – such as conveyor systems – that will make it possible to grow even further. At the same time, these advances allow the sector to meet ever-increasing demands.
How are conveyors used – and what types are there?
The recycling sector is perhaps unique in the demands that it faces. As a result, the technology used must be able to deal with more complex tasks. Think of the various materials that need to be separated. Or how about the hazardous attributes of certain materials e.g., glass? When the industry looks for innovative ways to deploy technology, these questions need to be answered.
These questions certainly apply to conveyor belt technology. Sharp objects can pierce the belt, while others can become jammed. All the while, these belts need to efficiently sort through all those recyclable materials – and there is a lot of them. Belt conveyors are quite common when it comes to recycling. But screw conveyors have a use within the sector too.
The technology making improvements to the industry
As an integral part of the US recycling sector, how can technology improve conveyor belts and make the process much more efficient? One approach is to ramp up oil/chemical resistance. In using new synthetic types of rubber, belts are better equipped to withstand the damage that a liquid can cause. Sometimes, it can also be a question of effective preventative maintenance.
The use of reliable components such as gearmotors is essential to the upkeep of any conveyor belt. It’s important for US recycling processing plant operators to trust in the longevity of their systems. A regular program of inspection can ensure full operating capacity is maintained long into the future. At the same time, it can also drive cost savings and greater energy efficiency.
AI and automation: What does the future hold in store?
The need for increased domestic recycling infrastructure isn’t going away – certainly not as the government commits itself to climate change ambitions. That means the technology needs to pivot and adapt in response. In terms of conveyor belts, their role will remain just as crucial and just as central. So, what are the key tech advances that we can look towards?
It’s almost inevitable that belts will become smarter and embraced by the Internet of Things in a greater capacity. But other advances include the potential for the use of direct-drive motors – removing a need for gears and allowing for more compact models. Active systems are another step forward, which better accommodate the loads placed on belts.
If the US recycling sector is to continue its valuable contribution to the economy, innovation in technology will prove so important. The use of conveyor belt systems ensures the sector steps up to the task for now. But further refinements can only be a good thing – whether that’s from an operational point of or how we think about the next generation of recycling sector infrastructure.