In November, 2013, Dem-Con Companies, Shakopee, MN, installed a 20 tons per hour single stream and commercial Material Recovery Facility. The MRF is housed in a 70,000 square foot building and serves the Twin Cities, Greater Minnesota, and surrounding states. The facility was designed and installed by CP Group out of San Diego, CA.

The original MRF equipment includes a CP Drum Feeder, OCCScreen, GlassBreaker Screen, CPScreen, NEWScreen, MSS Aladdin optical sorter and two IPS Balers. This equipment is still in operation today. At the time of installation, the MRF was highly advanced with all new technology.

Consumer behavior and commodity markets have undergone drastic changes since the original MRF was installed. These changes, among other challenges, created a need for MRF technology improvements.

The Challenge

Multiple challenges led the Dem-Con team to undertake system retrofits:

  • Labor shortages
  • Commodity prices
  • Restrictive end-markets
  • Higher quality standards
  • Need for improved efficiencies
  • Changing consumer behavior

China announced it would stop buying contaminated paper in July, 2017. Since this announcement, recycled paper prices decreased rapidly. This has had the most drastic implications on the commodity markets and recycling as a whole in the last decade.

The China Green Fence and National Sword created a demand for improved fiber purity across all markets. These higher paper quality standards could not be met by human sorters alone without incurring severe consequences on operating expenditures and processes.

China’s end-market dissolution, changing consumer behavior, and the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 created the perfect storm. Dem-Con, being a forward-thinking, progressive and proactive company, looked at their operations and identified that new technology would be imperative.

The Solution

Dem-Con turned to their long time MRF solutions partner, CP Group, to help them with the challenges faced at their MRF. Together, the two companies worked to create a solution. Including MSS optical sorters in the solution was a no-brainer. MSS’s optical sorters solved many challenges, including the need for improved material quality and headcount reduction while processing high tonnages. MSS optical sorters have the highest linear feet of output. They process more volume utilizing the fastest speeds with the widest belts. One MSS CIRRUS® can achieve over 1,000 picks per minute.

Dem-Con and CP worked on several designs. Together, the companies created the solution that would meet Dem-Con’s challenges head-on. At the heart of the system retrofits are MSS CIRRUS® optical sorters.


“We continue to work with CP because they are responsive, listen to our needs, and always deliver on time. They had a lot of patience especially with the retrofits. We had a lot of teamwork between our companies throughout the design process. CP always has fresh and new ideas and we really value the relationship.”
Mark Pahl

Co-Owner, Dem-Con

In August 2017, a MSS CIRRUS® optical sorter was added to the 3D material coming off the tail of the CPScreen before the container line. This optical sorter was added to recover all fiber. Online consumerism created many more small cardboard boxes in this material stream. The fiber that would be sent to the container line and lost to residue is captured and sent back to the fiber QC line. Headcount was reduced by two.
In September 2018, two MSS CIRRUS® Fibermax™ optical sorters were installed for fiber quality control. These two units negatively sort fiber by positively identifying and ejecting non-paper contaminants in place of human sorters. The need for automation was driven by labor shortages and the need to remove film, flattened aluminum and PET containers from fiber. The inclusion of the optical sorters enabled Dem-Con to reduce overhead by six, maintain high tonnage, and reach 0.5% material purity at production speed—one of the first MRFs in the United States to do so.
In August 2019, MSS upgraded the sensor on the original Aladdin optical sorter to a new MSS CIRRUS® PlasticMax™ sensor. The conveyor was able to be reused. This optical sorter positively identifies and ejects PET. This retrofit improved recovery while reducing headcount by two.
“The result of the retrofits is that we are able to diversify our end markets while decreasing our operations costs. We are able to maintain our position as a high quality supplier in the market for selling paper. Another improvement is that we are able to recover containers from the paper line and maximize their value at a higher price.”
Mark Pahl

Co-Owner, Dem-Con

The Results

  • 36% reduction in manual labor (10 FTE)
  • 21% increase in PET recovery
  • > 99.5% fiber purity achieved
  • Tons per hour processed increased from 20 to 25
About the Equipment
MSS CIRRUS® FiberMax™ optical sorters run at 1,000 feet per minute which is higher than the industry standard for belt speed. This lightens material on the belt and increases accuracy of the by decreasing collateral damage. The higher belt speeds also increase picks per minute. MSS uses their patented PrecisionFlow™ eject hood in combination with air-assist systems for precise material handling of flexible material.
The CIRRUS® PlasticMax™ is the industry’s most efficient optical sorter for containers and plastic recovery. PlasticMax™ accurately identifies and recovers the most challenging material, such as short fills, labels, and PET-G.