Schenectady County

How 50,000 cans and bottles a day get smashed

You’d think smashing, puncturing and flattening 50,000 cans and bottles a day would be a noisy propo
Clynk employee Nate Ludwig works along the scanning line at Clynk's redemption processing facility in Glenville on April 14, 2016. Bottles and cans are automatically separated here.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Clynk employee Nate Ludwig works along the scanning line at Clynk's redemption processing facility in Glenville on April 14, 2016. Bottles and cans are automatically separated here.

You’d think smashing, puncturing and flattening 50,000 cans and bottles a day would be a noisy proposition.

But the new Clynk recycling facility isn’t particularly loud. And despite its name, nothing goes “clink” unless two glass bottles hit each other. Mainly there’s the steady low hum and rumble of conveyor belts and the periodic whine of a hoist, punctuated by the rapid snap of compressed air hitting aluminum cans and the frequent pop of holes being punched in plastic bottles.

Each day, trucks carry glass, aluminum and plastic bottles and cans from area Hannaford supermarkets into the Glenville Business and Technology Park in individual bags marked with the Clynk account numbers of the shoppers who turned them in.

Wearing goggles and gloves against the chance broken bottle, operator Nate Ludwig electronically records the account number, rips open the bag and pours the contents into a hopper that tilts and dumps the cans and bottles into a large round bin that aligns them and sends them onto a scanning line past six scanners. At least one of the scanners is usually able to read the bar code on each can and bottle, verify it carries a New York deposit, and credit the customer’s account. If all six fail, Ludwig has to scan it by hand.

The empties then continue their march toward death and eventual rebirth.

A sensor detects metal and shoots a blast of compressed air at the passing aluminum cans, knocking them off the scanning line and onto a conveyor belt that carries them toward the ceiling then drops them into one of two 18-foot-tall hoppers.

A second sensor weighs the remaining containers as they pass and triggers a blast of air at the lightweight plastics, dropping them onto a different conveyor belt that carries them up and into the second hopper, where holes are punched in them as they drop in.

The much-heavier glass bottles go onto the final conveyor belt, then into a smaller hopper where they are smashed and dumped in a bin.

When the plastic or aluminum hopper is full, the contents are dumped onto one last conveyor belt, taking them to a compactor that will smash tens of thousands of them into a single bale weighing 700 pounds (aluminum) or 800 pounds (plastic). Had the plastic bottles not been perforated, the air trapped in capped bottles would take up so much space that a bale would weigh only 600 pounds.

When there are 55 to 60 bales and bins stacked up, enough to fill a semi trailer, Tomra comes by and trucks them off to its facility in Rotterdam.

Clynk is also processing cans and bottles collected in Tomra’s automated machines in supermarket lobbies. And some of its machinery is made by Tomra. So there is a synergy between the two companies.

The difference is that Tomra machines give shoppers a paper slip for their deposits that they can redeem or spend on the spot. Clynk customers get a credit to their account that they can get back in a couple of days as cash, use toward their next purchase at Hannaford, or donate to a local non-profit that has signed up as a partner through Hannaford.

Beverage makers pay Clynk 3.5 cents for each New York deposit container it processes. The full nickel deposit goes back to the customer who turned that can or bottle in. Customers must buy their Clynk bags — about the size of a tall kitchen trash bag — for 17 cents each.

Clynk’s facility in South Portland, Maine, processes 93 million cans and bottles a year but without the automation of the new Glenville facility — it’s all done by hand, in two shifts.

Here in New York, Clynk is rapidly expanding its footprint: It was in four Hannaford supermarkets April 15, will be in 10 by April 30, and expects to be in 30 by the end of this year. As it does so, it will install more of the round bins and scanning lines at the Glenville facility, designed to handle up to 100 million empties a year.

Which adds up to a whole lot of jingling coins.

Reach Gazette business editor John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.

Categories: Business, News

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