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GFL launches new state-of-the-art Calgary MRF

A new era of recycling began in Calgary, Alberta, this spring with the opening of GFL’s new state-of-the-art material recovery facility (MRF).

Located just east of Calgary in Rocky View County, the MRF was officially opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the mayor of Calgary, some city council members, the media, customers and GFL staff.

“It was a big moment for Calgary,” said Brent Jespersen, GFL’s general manager for Southern Alberta. “With this new MRF’s use of highly sophisticated equipment, we can process 400 tonnes of material a day.”

The new 70,000-square-foot MRF processes recyclables from community recycling depots, GFL’s commercial routes and more than 350,000 Calgary households.

“The City of Calgary collects all the residential recycling materials so each day we receive roughly 113 of their residential collection vehicles on our floor,” Jespersen said.

The MRF receives recyclables seven days a week and workers process the collected materials five days a week, Monday to Friday, at a rate of up to 27 tonnes of material per hour.

Recyclable materials are dumped on the tipping floor then run through a pre-sort area, fiber sorting and container sorting areas.

“We use the newest state-of-the-art AI technology,” Jespersen said. “We’ve got robots and five optical sorters that are run by AI that read what’s paper and what’s not and sort the materials in order to get the highest grade quality of commodities that we can then sell to the market.”

When recycled materials arrive at the MRF, six employees work the pre-sort line where they remove any materials that cannot be recycled, are dangerous and/or could harm the equipment.

“Right now we’re seeing that about 18% of the material that we’re processing is waste and we don’t really see that going down,” Jespersen said. “Yesterday we had a La-Z-Boy couch come off the line, a propane tank, four helium tanks and a tree.”

The OCC (old corrugated cardboard) screener, optical sorters and ballistics separators sort and categorize the recyclable materials while about 30 employees work on the floor sifting through and sorting the materials.

“The materials go through a series of conveyors and sorters that bring it to the end of the line where we store it in bunkers ready to be baled and shipped to outbound markets,” Jespersen said.

With such a highly automated environment, safety is a top priority. The machinery has built-in safety protections but one thing the Calgary MRF has that many older MRFs don’t is a fire suppression system. Called the Fire Rover, the system uses thermal detection and high-definition video to detect fires and a targeted suppression system that extinguishes fires as soon as they start, 24 hours a day.

“We follow a very strict safety process so we’re constantly monitoring safety within the MRF and making sure the employees are safe,” Jespersen said.

Later this year the Calgary MRF will also begin processing recyclables collected from the nearby municipalities that GFL serves.

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