Mass transfers

Transfer station operators can choose between a variety of loading and material handling options to keep things moving.

Makers of material handling equipment compete to design and make machines that move the largest volume in the fastest cycle time.

By its very definition, a transfer station is a place where materials are moved in and then just as quickly reloaded for another trip to their next destination. The tipping floor and truck docks at a transfer station bustle with activity, and material handling equipment is at the heart of it.

Makers of material handling equipment compete vigorously to design and make machines that move the largest volume of material in the fastest cycle time.

Other factors, such as mobility, reach, durability, safety and energy efficiency, come into play when transfer station owners and operators consider the merits of which loader or crane to buy next when equipping a facility.

On the move

The traditional material handling workhorses at transfer stations are wheel loaders, ranging in size from large loaders also used in earthmoving applications down to smaller skid steer loaders manufactured to zip into tight spaces.

Makers of wheel loaders have long offered “waste and recycling” package options on many of their models. Such packages typically include extra guarding around the cab and critical components in the knowledge that loaders at transfer stations and recycling plants will be exposed to harsh conditions.

On its website, Bulle, Switzerland-based equipment maker, Liebherr, which maintains its American headquarters in Newport News, Virginia, hosts a brochure spelling out the features of its loaders and handlers designed for the waste management and recycling industries.

Regarding its L 507 Stereo and L 580 wheel loader models, Liebherr indicates they include an “industrial lift arm or rather parallel linkage, specially developed for recycling operations [to] make day-to-day work easier for the driver and ensure optimal processes when loading, transporting and sorting waste.”

Options available from the manufacturer include custom bucket attachments, extra protection around cylinders, metal guarding around the glass operator’s cab, upgraded dust filtering for the cab, particle traps and air cleaners for the radiator, additional lighting, a rear-view camera, chassis protection and specialty tires designed to prevent flats.

Idabel, Oklahoma-based SETCO is among the specialty tiremakers that has long served the waste transfer station market. The company’s line of “Junk Yard Dog” puncture- and flat-proof off-road solid tires dates back to 1989.

Every loader or hydraulic handler found in a waste transfer station is unable to make much of a contribution without a bucket, grapple or some other attachment on its front end.

On its website, SETCO states, “From the smallest 100-tons-per-day operation to a 2,000-tons-per-day facility, SETCO solid rubber tires are a necessity in [the transfer station’s] hazardous and abusive environment.”

The company indicates its tires have gained favor from handlers of “C&D material, household and green waste, plastic and glass,” among other materials, because the tires can “withstand the abuse and continue to provide proven performance and longevity.”

Appropriately, puncture-proof tires made by SETCO and other suppliers are available for smaller skid steer loaders that serve in the same transfer station and recycling facility environments.

Recognizing a growing custom market, makers of skid steel loaders also have long offered models equipped to endure waste and recycling environments.

The Racine, Wisconsin-based Case Construction Equipment brand of CNH Industrial states on its website that “equipment built for the demands of waste and recycling applications takes a special kind of beating not seen in other industries.”

Like the larger wheel loaders equipment makers offer to the waste sector, skid steers for the market can be equipped with attachments, guarding and safety options designed to protect both operators and critical components.

In terms of durable tires, Case recently announced an agreement with global tiremaker Michelin to offer a line of tires for customers in the solid waste sector and other industries with harsh environments. (See the sidebar “Case offers a new-for-2018 tire option” online.)

“Along with moving materials quickly, operators are looking to maximize recycling opportunities when investing in material handlers.”

Reaching out

Makers of hydraulic material handlers—often referred to as cranes or excavators in a nod to their construction industry roots—also have succeeded in garnering a share of the transfer station material handling market.

Providers of such machines are typically quick to point out that such units, once customized, are no longer excavators or even cranes, but can most accurately be referred to as material handlers or hydraulic handlers.

Liebherr indicates it can equip such handlers with the “speed and robustness” required to withstand “extremely dusty indoor operations or materials sorting and loading operations that are part of the waste and recycling materials handling process.”

As with its loader packages, “Additional equipment such as protective devices, reversible fans, large radiators and ventilation systems [designed to] protect both the machine and the people working with it” are available in handlers sold into the transfer station market, according to Liebherr.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Sennebogen LLC, a subsidiary of a southern Germany-based equipment maker, touts the ability of such handlers to remove materials of value from the tipping floor more effectively than can be achieved with a wheel loader.

In 2014, Sennebogen supplied the city of Tacoma, Washington, with an 821 R-HD model for an 83,000-square-foot transfer station that handles some 165,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) per year. Sennebogen did so knowing that diverting recyclable materials was a priority for the city.

Officials and operations personnel from the city of Tacoma said at the time they had specifically designed the transfer station to host a hydraulic handler. “We gave it a large open floor to provide more room for sorting and recovery from the waste stream,” Lewis Griffith, an assistant division manager with Tacoma’s Solid Waste Utility department, said.

“The vision was to select loads that would have more recoverable material to be dumped on the floor here,” he remarked about the department’s goal of increasing the volume of material diverted away from the landfill and toward recycling markets.

Wheel loaders still play a role at the facility, according to a Sennebogen press release, by pushing the less valuable portions of loads into MSW compactors for disposal in the landfill. The Sennebogen handler, meanwhile, is used to sort recyclable material and to pick out oversized items that are too large for the compactors.

The new handler’s operator praised the higher view offered by the handler (compared to a wheel loader) as being “ideal for picking up those items and lowering them down into the trailer.” He also credited the elevating cab for allowing him to be “high enough to see right down into the semi-trailer, and I can articulate the logs any way I need to, to make a good load.”

After the Sennebogen handler had been on the job for 18 months, Griffith indicated the volume of material captured for recycling from the waste stream at the transfer station had doubled on a daily average basis.

Along with moving MSW and similar materials quickly from the tipping floor to an outbound truck or railcar, the desire to maximize recycling opportunities will likely continue to influence the material handling selection process for transfer station operators.

The author is an editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at

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