The high value of scrap metal has supported a prosperous international recycling industry with large sites specialising in metals handling and distribution. The major ports and plants employ dedicated machines that year by year become larger and more powerful. At the same time their energy and capital costs have to be minimised. The electrically powered handling machines stand high above the assorted heaps of metal turning 360 degrees to make up loads from different classes of scrap including compressed cans, white goods, cars and heavy girders. They have to be able to work continuously without breakdown, bearing the stresses of heavy tonnages with a long outreach.
For instance, the Belgian Equilibrium Crane (E-Crane) can handle up to 30 tons at a reach of 150 feet. In the first programme to compare these types of machine Steven Vale takes us to five sites in the UK and Europe. As well as the E-Crane, he has filmed the Swedish Multi Docker and the German Sennebogen specialist handlers. Footage from Liverpool shows the world’s first Liebherr R984 scrap machines at work. Steven shows the processes to which these machines contribute, including a mini steel mill in Kent, following through to new steel production. There is footage of crushers at work. The programme also shows what is probably the world’s most powerful demolition machine, a Rusch Triple 34-25, cutting up sections of a redundant oil rig in Norway.