Brian Fetting with the core of Rush Recycling’s production team, Albert Gwaza and Sibusiso Nkqayi, at the company’s plant in Wadeville

Rush Recycling separates aluminum from ABS, HIPS

RUSH Recycling, which specializes in the separation of aluminium foil from thermoformed plastic sheeting, has put its plant into operation in a venture that has the potential to be a first for South Africa.

Based in Wadeville, Johannesburg, Rush is a startup venture by Brian Fetting which is recycling material which up until now has gone to landfill in bulk. It is processing high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) and ABS production scrap from a number of Gauteng dairy container manufacturers and separating the container material and aluminium foil using a technology that is still gathering market traction.

The process involves separating the plastic sheet from which the yoghurt or other dairy product containers are thermoformed and the aluminium foil used to seal the contents (that is to say that it is not recycling the containers themselves).

Even though only a small portion of the total material used is actually metal, neither the production scrap or the containers themselves were being recycled for exactly the reason that the aluminium could not be separated.

The foil separation system in use was originally developed by one of the waste management groups, which had based its design on similar models used in Europe and the Far East. A fairly substantial quantity of the substrate material (foil heat-sealed on to HIPS or ABS) had been built up at the waste business’s yard, but after the separation system processed the 30 tons surprisingly quickly, the machine was left to gather dust.

That was where Fetting entered the picture. Having spent his career to date in plastic container production, mainly of larger sizes, Fetting had been obligated to start again. He founded Rush Recycling, as an offshoot of his daughter Robyn’s, Rush Design business, in October 2019 … just in time for the new business’s growth pangs to run into the Covid-19 induced economic contraction, a dismal time for any new venture.

But besides Rush’s committed staff, Fetting’s advantage has been the fact that he is familiar with the polymers at play in the container manufacturing process, and specifically their behaviour in relation to metal.

The machine employed was designed by Joburg injection moulding fundi Karl Seidel and built in China. According to Fetting, the system can separate ABS or HIPS from aluminium foil as well as paper from metal foil. If successful, and the pointers at this stage suggest that this will be the case; the technology will fill an important market need (large volumes of plastic containers are not being recycled as the metal component prevents processing).

The company at first operated from the East Rand but moved to Wadeville in mid-2020 to be closer to its customers, which are essentially dairy businesses and potentially other plastic convertors which supply the dairy sector, or for that matter any manufacturer processing polymers which are sealed to metal substrates. The technology operates optimally where the polymer and metal are joined by heat sealing, but Rush has also trialled substrates where the foil is attached by adhesive unsuccessfully, and one of the goals presently is to overcome this challenge too.

At this stage Fetting is involved in extending Rush’s footprint and improving efficiencies so it can push greater volumes through. Plans are underway to secure materials used in pharmaceutical packaging (blister packs, ointment tubes, etc) and aluminium coffee pods. It is selling the resulting materials – the recycled polymer materials and metal fraction – into a variety of surprising applications.

  • Brian Fetting: 082 329 8570