Pat Rock and the crew at Quad/Graphics’ Sussex, WI, plant were the recipients of seven 45-foot-tall cyclones, giving the company what is believed to be the largest scrap paper recycling system in the country.

In determining how big of a system the Sussex plant would need, Quad looked at the balers’ ratings, as well as redundancies. “We always want to have a backup line. That way, when we do maintenance on the equipment, we don’t have to shut down the binder, stitcher, multimailer or flat cutter,” Rock says. “They can run without a hitch or hiccup, and we just keep maintaining the equipment.”

The size of the system is determined by a complex formula involving the volume of air to tons of waste produced. Quad/Graphics opted for balers rated well above their tonnage needs in order to run them at slower speeds as opposed to the maximum rated speed.

Though the systems resemble old-school manufacturing, with the massive cyclones that look like they belong at a construction site, the trim recycling gear is wired for operation via a Web browser. Rock notes that operators can access the system from home and check on its status. Throughout the plant, operators can perform functions via a touchscreen, and a large control system is positioned in the building that houses the system.

Let’s take the 10-cent tour of how a trim recycling system works. Product is sucked upward out of a retaining bin at one of the finishing lines and, in the case of Quad’s Sussex plant, hits a top speed of 85 miles per hour (7,500 feet per minute). The piping then turns for a more horizontal run at slightly less speeds (68 mph) until reaching the top of one of the cyclones. At that point, the paper is treated to an anticlimactic free fall at a heart-racing 3 mph until reaching the final destination at the bottom of the cyclone.

The cyclone separates the dirt-filled air from the trim waste. The paper gets condensed into a 1,500-lb. block while the air is filtered and released back into the shop or outdoors. The paper is then destined for tissue mills, or can be reborn into fine writing paper or cover stock.

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