Here, American Iron & Metal (AIM) recycles approximately a million tonnes of scrap metal every year, crushing old cars and construction demolition waste into compacted cubes of raw material that is shipped back to steel companies for reprocessing back into new finished goods or building materials.
According to the USA’s Steel Recycling Institute, “steel is the most recycled material on the planet, more than all other materials combined. Steel retains an extremely high overall recycling rate, which in 2014, stood at 86 percent.”
And AIM is a leading player in putting old steel back into circulation, with 2,500 employees and 70 locations around the globe.
Much of the material it reprocesses comes in from Delsan, its own demolition business, which in its own right is a major player in decommissioning, asset recovery, demolition, asbestos and lead abatement, and contaminated soil remediation.
Central to operations in the Hamilton yard is a fleet of material handlers, all of them Liebherrs, feeding the crushing machines, whose appetites appear insatiable.
As each Liebherr machine picks up a load of scrap in its orange-peel grab and drops it into crusher, it takes just moments for a crushed 2ft cube to be spewed out and a few moments more for the feeding machine to pick up the bail and place it on the stack for transhipment.
The operator’s cab elevates to give a clear view of the scrap pile, into the hopper where each load is placed and over the stack of crushed bails.
Around the 55-acre site there are 10 Liebherr scrap handlers (the German for which is Schrottumschlag, incidentally).
There is an assortment of model types, including: four LH 80s (two in pedestal configuration; two regular), three LH 60s and an LH 30 as well as 904 and a 954.
A further five LH machines are on order for delivery within the next six months – four of the large LH 80s and one LH 60 – and manager Andrew Kummer says they will be put to work as soon as they arrive.
Kummer says these Liebherr cranes, as he calls them, are crucial to the entire operation of the yard. Nothing would move without them. The facility is totally dependent.
Demand for scrap steel is high and AIM can barely turn material around quickly enough. Machine reliability is absolutely essential. For this reason, AIM remains a loyal Liebherr customer and has bought more than a hundred of its machines over the years.
It also has three other-brand wheeled loaders working the site, keeping heaps of sorted scrap in order. Piles of rebar here, steel wheels there, steel tubing and mountains of miscellaneous scrap metal, all waiting to be turned into 2ft cubes.
The LH 80 M Industry Litronic, to give it its full name, has a 22-metre reach and operating weight of 71.5 to 76.5 tonnes.
The LH 60 is only slightly smaller, with a 20-metre reach and 55.0 to 72.6-tonne operating weight range.
For this arduous application, they all have smooth-tread ‘Lucky Luke’ tyres – solid rubber and therefore puncture proof, but with what appear to be large bullet holes shot through them to create air pockets for a slightly more cushioned ride.