Security Shredding and Storage - a shredding industry publication
by P.J. Heller

A multinational pharmaceutical company announces a “new” product and orders that the over-the-counter item it replaces be immediately pulled from store shelves.

A well-known international consumer products company is forced to recall tens of thousands of items after safety concerns are raised by the government and consumer safety groups.

An unexpected assembly-line glitch prompts a large manufacturing company to scrap its entire production run of innovative machine parts that held the promise of revolutionizing the industry.

Although isolated and seemingly unrelated incidents, what they have in common is the need by the businesses to ensure that the products remain off the market, out of the hands of consumers, competitors, counterfeiters and, in the case of law enforcement, away from criminals.

While items unable to be recycled could be disposed of in landfills, that option — while generally environmentally unsound — also provides no assurances that the products were actually destroyed. Burning the products in inefficient incinerators also poses similar environmental problems.

Product shredding offers greater assurances, although environmental concerns remain due to the fact that the shredded remains are eventually dumped in ever-dwindling landfill space.

To address those concerns and the needs of companies wanting a secure chain of custody of materials — from the time products are picked up until they are destroyed — is the latest goal of Geocycle US, a Dundee, Mich.-based company that for years has been providing waste solutions nationwide.

“One of the most important value propositions offered by Geocycle US is the management of a wide range of waste streams, such as off-spec or out-of-date products that cannot be recycled by traditional means, but that might otherwise end up in inefficient landfills or incinerators, or even worse, illegally dumped,” said Rob Davies, president of Geocycle. Geocycle takes commercial and industrial waste streams, including the output of product shredding, and through what it calls “co-processing,” utilizes the waste with its partner and parent company, Holcim (US), in the manufacture of portland cement.

“Co-processing is a proven effective, safe, reliable and environmentally responsible waste management solution that ensures complete thermal destruction of materials,” Davies said.

Geocycle offers its customers certificates of destruction, attesting to the fact that their products were destroyed. The company also allows customers to be on site for a “witness burn,” allowing them to see the actual destruction of their products.

After shredding, the material is burned in a cement kiln, where temperatures reach nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The company operates a dozen kilns throughout the U.S., with plans to add more.

“If a manufacturer wants to get rid of something, companies that do this type of work will say a product has been destroyed after it has been shredded,” Davies said. “We take it a step further and introduce it into the cement-making process where the heat of the cement kiln is so hot that it obliterates the product.

“The benefit to the company that uses our product destruction services is that it gets rid of the product completely,” he said. “It’s annihilated. Once it goes in the kiln, it’s not coming out.

“Manufacturers and regulatory agencies cannot risk having off-spec products or other materials cycling back into the market and causing harm,” he added. “This risk is mitigated through the secure, complete thermal destruction made possible through co-processing.”

Some of the shredded material is used to help power the cement manufacturing process, reducing the amount of fossil fuels required. The shredded materials also add mineral and other components into the mix, such as aluminum, calcium and iron, further reducing the need for those resources.

“Co-processing waste materials in cement manufacturing recovers its energy potential and incorporates minerals, which replaces and preserves fossil fuels and other natural resources that would otherwise have to be mined, such as coal,” Davies explained.

Co-processing leaves no waste residue, he added.

Geocycle has a wide range of machinery to handle product shredding. At its Dorchester, S.C., plant, a Cumberland granulator pulverizes small objects, such as pill bottles, into tiny unrecognizable pieces. The material is then mixed with other materials in a blending pit to create an alternative fuel for the cement manufacturing process.

The Cumberland granulator is just one of the shredders at that location. Among the others is an SSI shredder, a two shaft shear shredder used for solids and liquids, such as consumer products including shampoos and deodorants. A single shaft Vecoplan rotor shredder, which chips solid materials such as plastics and fibrous materials including paper and clothing, is also in use in Dorchester.

Geocycle began offering product shredding in November 2007 after acquiring the Dorchester plant, previously Vexor Technology, and another facility in St. George, S.C., formerly Premier Environmental Management, Inc.

“We view the addition of product shredding capabilities as a key step toward our strategic vision of developing a solution- and service-oriented business in the North American waste management industry,” Davies said.

Since January 2006 when the Vexor plant began operating, it has produced more than 34 million pounds of an alternative fuel — developed from more than 550 waste streams — for use at the Holcim cement plant in Holly Hill, S.C., according to Geocycle officials.

In that same time frame, Premier Environmental Management has processed 70 million pounds of recoverable materials for use in local cement kilns, they said.

Geocycle offers companies a full-service approach to product shredding, from transporting the materials to storing them securely and finally shredding and burning them. This so-called “chain of custody” is designed to give customers the peace of mind in knowing that their products will not go missing, wind up being resold or in the hands of competitors.

Having locations throughout the U.S. allows Geocycle to bring products to the most efficient location for destruction. It began offering its Geocycle Freight Management Services on Feb. 1.

“If there’s a nationwide recall and the product that’s been recalled is in warehouses around the U.S., what we would be able to do is identify the most effective locations to be able to destroy product,” Davies said.

That saves the companies the time, effort and cost of having to collect and ship the recalled product back to a single location, as is often done.

“We are effectively able to destroy it at the closest location to eliminate some of that logistical complexity,” Davies said.

Each of the Geocycle locations is permitted to handle a wide variety of materials.

“One of the things that we would have to do is chemically test the material to make sure it didn’t contain something that was hazardous and that it was within the permit, but generally the permits are broad enough that we’re able to accommodate that,” Davies noted.

He said companies are extremely concerned about security when it comes to product destruction.

“This particular segment is more worried about things like brand protection, about not having product reach market, then it is about the environment,” he said. “Their main focus is not the environmental aspect. They’re more concerned about destroying the product, getting it off the market.”

The same, he said, holds true for law enforcement agencies which may be disposing of contraband, such as illegal drugs.

“Our market includes companies that desire secure, full service waste management solutions,” Davies said.

He said those waste management solutions can begin with on-site services and end with secure thermal destruction.

Geocycle sees consumer products, particularly personal care products and over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals, as the biggest growth markets for its niche service.

“This is because returned OTC and regulated (out-of-date) pharmaceuticals continue to grow as the pharmaceutical industry expands,” Davies said.

Destruction of illegal drugs will also continue to grow, he said, The need to dispose of counterfeit goods, which has been on the increase, was expected to decline.

“Counterfeit goods have increased over the past 10 years as illegitimate businesses take advantage of cheap labor in developing countries with limited laws and regulations related to export,” he said. “However, the counterfeit goods market should decline in the future as legitimate companies set up operations in these countries causing them to improve control over manufacturing and export of goods.”

Davies described the company’s vision as “bringing business and nature in balance.

“Through our commitment to sustainable development — economic, environmental and social responsibility — we continue to expand our waste management capabilities, including product shredding, preprocessing blended materials and co-processing of waste in the manufacture of cement,” he said.

Geocycle US, formerly Energis LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holcim (US) Inc.

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