Recycling Industry

The Problem Statement

Customer is a major waste recycling company based in the US North East. The site receives waste consisting mostly of tree parts like logs and stumps, curbside green waste and agricultural waste. These are ground to a fibrous consistency to meet IPEM ASTM F2075 standard for Engineered Wood Fiber. The ground tree parts are then colored with a variety of dyes to create attractive products that suit a customer’s landscape.

 When bulk materials like organic waste stored in large piles in open yards are exposed to air and moisture they decompose and the resulting exothermic reaction raises the pile’s temperature. Self-ignition starts within the pile and a full-blown fire can develop if no corrective actions are taken. In addition to loss of valuable products causing economic losses there is a distinct possibility of monetary loss due to equipment and structural damage. Increase in insurance coverage just adds insult to injury. The customer realized that fire prevention is clearly better than fire fighting.

The Solution

Aspec Scire’s developed an early-warning-system to reveal hot spots early so that measures could be taken to prevent a full-scale fire from breaking out. The area with mulch is identified and is scanned weekly with a drone equipped with a FLIR thermal camera. Thermal and standard (RGB) images are processed in Aspec Scire’s proprietary cloud-based software to generate reports identifying hot-spots.

Hotspots in the mulch pile

In the screenshot above the multiple hotspots have been identified. The yellow hotspots are on the mulch piles and represent “true positives”. The red hotspots are “false positives”, in this case from the exhaust of the processing machinery.

Hotspots in mulch pile

In the screenshot above the aerial map (plan view of the site) has been overlaid on the thermal map of the site. Hotspots within the mulch piles are clearly visible. The scale on the left of the screen indicates temperatures across the site. Users can choose the temperature range of interest by specifying maximum/minimum temperatures in the slider scale (see arrows).

These hot-spots are addressed either by flattening out the mulch piles with dozers or dousing with water.


Flattened mulch piles
In the screenshot above the mulch pile height is determined by choosing points P1 and P2. By specifying a sitewide threshold, very tall piles are flattened to reduce fire hazards.

A weekly flight regime has been put in place based on the determination that this would be the most optimal early warning system. Fire prevention is clearly less expensive than fighting one after a full breakout.