Article originally featured in Recycling Today
Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. strives to be the first choice as a recycler of last resort for difficult-to-handle materials.
Sludges, filter press cakes, filters and metallic dust are not materials considered the stuff of dreams for most recyclers, commodity traders or entrepreneurs. But these unglamorous materials are exactly what Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. (AORI), Longview, Texas, pursues as it builds a growing business.
According to AORI President Mark Wayne, the company handles a diverse array of materials and in 2012 expanded its services with the addition of a second facility in Jackson, Ohio, and a third one in Waverly, Ohio.
In 2012, the company handled some 3 million tons of what Mark describes as “industrial metal-laden waste material” as it worked to use, reuse and reclaim metallic resources and solve waste handling problems for its customers.
Hazard of the Job
The name Alpha Omega refers to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. AORI’s first responsibility is to properly handle materials that, in many cases, are classified as hazardous.
The list of materials that AORI accepts for processing is lengthy and not all of them are classified as hazardous waste. A healthy percentage of them are, however, including wastewater treatment sludges from electroplating operations, certain spent catalysts and sludges that contain arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium or silver. The reclamation process can be significant in determining whether a waste is regulated as hazardous. Often times materials are only hazardous because they exhibit a characteristic and are not regulated when reclaimed.
These waste materials that require specific treatment will, in the final stages of the process, yield secondary commodities, some with considerable value.
But to reach those final (omega) stages, AORI must invest in capital equipment, chemical reagents, time and labor hours to ensure that its process manages the hazards in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
The company’s RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) Part B permit describes the metals recycling process as consisting of: 1) leaching/extraction/metal recovery, 2) blending and drying and 3) batch processing.
The function of all processes at AORI is described by the company as recycling metal from industrial waste streams, stabilizing the remaining residue and returning metals back into the market as a usable product.
The proprietary metals recycling process AORI uses involves seven distinct processing routes for hazardous waste materials and six distinct routes for nonhazardous materials. All routes are based on the chemical extraction of waste for recovery of metals. Each of these processing lines has a variety of equipment that can include dedicated tanks, filter presses, redox (reduction-oxidation) units and drying units.
The nature of the materials handled by AORI means the company must hold identification numbers and relevant permits, including a RCRA Part B permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and must be prepared to communicate with regulatory agencies regularly. “The regulatory aspect of industrial waste recycling is the most challenging part of the industry, and standards apply to every aspect of waste recycling from containment structures to waste containers, storage to labeling and training to contingency plans,” Mark says.
The Finish Line
Providing a recycling solution for generators of hazardous or low-value waste materials is one revenue-generating aspect of AORI’s work. The other is producing secondary metallic commodities that can be sold into regional and global markets.
“Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. specializes in synergizing waste materials to extract metals of value and return those to market as a valuable product,” is how Mark describes the company’s mission.
AORI seeks any of several end markets for the wide range of secondary metallic products that emanate from its 13 production lines. “We sell directly to metal smelters, fertilizer manufacturers and refineries,” Mark says.
The range of different metals extracted from the sludges, filter cakes and dust that AORI processes can fill out a healthy percentage of the periodic table of elements, including aluminum, chromium, copper, nickel, iron, palladium, platinum, selenium, silver and zinc.
Some of these metals have active and well-established secondary markets, while others can involve finding a narrow range of select buyers.
Higher metal prices and consistent demand for scrap metals during the past 10 years have helped enhance AORI’s business equation, but Mark says there is still more work that can be done to maximize returns. “The global metals market is very challenging; there are many variables that affect market conditions,” he comments.
Achieving good returns for its customers on metallic yields is clearly important for AORI, as evidenced by its inclusion of metals exchange pricing information for copper, gold, nickel, platinum, palladium and silver on its website, http://alphaomegarecycling.com.
Up to the Task
AORI has established a track record of properly handling potentially hazardous wastes while extracting and recovering the maximum amount of metal.
The company’s leadership team is far from complacent, however, and its vision is far from “business as usual.”
The company describes itself as “an industry leader in developing new processes and technology to convert hazardous waste streams into productive raw materials,” and company leaders have high expectations for where those processes can take AORI. “Ultimately, our goal is to focus on research and development in order to assist our clients achieve zero-residue recycling for all of their hazardous waste,” the company states on its website.
Research is not a second-tier priority at AORI, says Mark, who notes that the company’s leaders have their roots in remediation and chemistry. “The current management of AORI includes waste management and remediation experts with experience in chemical engineering, environmental waste disposal and practical waste treatment.” The company’s facility in Longview includes a wastewater pretreatment facility as well as an on-site laboratory.
“Advancements in technology allow AORI to use cutting-edge technology to recover metal from many materials that formerly were not considered to be cost-effectively recycled,” Mark continues. “Industrial waste generators are able to utilize these industry advancements and recycle many of their waste streams that were once destined for the landfill.”
At its Texas and Ohio facilities, AORI can appeal to scrap and waste generators whose material streams go beyond those typically handled by recyclers—such as medical X-ray film and some types of batteries and electronic scrap—whose foremost concern is securing safe, environmentally sound on-shore processing of these materials.
When it comes to handling medical X-rays, AORI says, “our silver-recovery process complies with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) handling requirements for medical X-ray film and helps hospitals across the country properly recycle expired film archives.”
In addition to responsibly handling these X-ray films on the front end, the company also touts its processing experiencing. AORI says on its website that its “experience in the silver-recovery process ensures that customers receive the best return rates.”
Mark says AORI’s leadership team is optimistic about the company’s ability to grow its business both by accepting additional materials and by extracting new types of metallic elements.
“Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. is exploring many new technologies to compete on in a global market,” he comments. “New business ventures include e-waste management facilities, rare earth product enhancement and expanding our low-grade-metal management capabilities”
Mark says the company sees a number of growth opportunities ahead. “Finding opportunities in which Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. can accept a waste stream for use in extracting metals from another metal-laden waste stream is one of the goals here,” he states.
Mark says AORI sees several such opportunities on the horizon and perhaps some over the horizon in the form of bringing its services to a more geographically dispersed customer base.
He adds, “We strive to find synergy in waste recycling. Alpha Omega Recycling Inc. wants to continue to provide excellent recycling services for our customers and has plans to attract new customers both domestically and internationally.”