Vacuuming Trash Away

A pipe-based waste collection system keeps yards and factories clean. Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at least once in their lives. They must circle the Kaaba cube at the center of Islam’s holiest site seven times. Mustafa Al-Dulaimi, a project engineer at MariMatic, has recently fulfilled his obligation on a work trip.

“I’d never circled it before. It felt really good.”

MariMatic has delivered a waste collection system to Mecca designed to collect millions of pilgrims’ trash annually. Al-Dulaimi has two advantages in this project: his knowledge of Arabic, and his Muslim faith.

“Only Muslims can go onto the construction site, as it’s on holy ground.”

Plenty of Clients in the Middle East

MariMatic has manufactured pipe-based waste collection systems for 40 years. There are two product lines: food industry and municipal waste. Al-Dulaimi is currently working on a food industry project in Iraq, where a massive pipe system for a chicken abattoir is being built.

“The edible parts, like wings and drumsticks, continue on the production line, but the parts intended for fodder and grinding, like the head, feet and bones, go down the pipes.”

A local company installed the pipes, and Al-Dulaimi visited the site to inspect the installations and start up the systems. The trip was notable from the perspective that Al-Dulaimi, who came to Finland in 2010 as a refugee, was born in Iraq.
“It was nice to see my two sisters and other relatives there and eat some local food.”
However, Finland is home for him. He enjoys his multicultural workplace and lives with his family, including two children, in Vantaa.

“Family is the most important thing for me. That’s why it’s important to get to be at home, even though a few trips are okay.”

He began as a project engineer at MariMatic in August. Previously, he worked for Rejlers as a consultant at Metso. He earned a degree in production technology engineering from the Häme University of Applied Sciences in 2018. He completed his military service in Finland.

Peering into the Pipe

MariMatic has delivered thousands of waste collection systems to 40 countries, but the demo center in Järvenpää offers the best overview of them. Inside, there are 2.3 km of looped piping, through which waste zooms in around ninety seconds. Clients’ waste collection systems are often buried underground, but here, visitors can look inside the pipe.

The system has several waste collection stations, connected by valves to collection pipes. There are five collection stations for the five types or ‘fractions’ of waste: mixed, compost, paper, cardboard, and plastic. Friendly eyes are painted on the collection stations.

“When kids see these, they learn to like recycling from a young age.”

Each fraction travels from the specific collection station to a dedicated recycling container in a drive-in waste collection hub. In professional jargon, the collection station that the resident sees is called an inlet.

“If the collection station is an inlet, then the recycling container is an outlet,” Al-Dulaimi says.

Ejector for Food Industry Waste

In municipal waste collection systems, the suction results from vacuum pumps, whereas in food industry systems, an ejector is often also used. The ejector creates a vacuum with the help of the suction formed inside. That sucks the food waste toward the separator at the start of the piping, and via a hatch into the intended container.

“An ejector has no moving parts. It’s easy to clean and is zero-maintenance.”

In Järvenpää, the company runs client demos and conducts product development. Al-Dulaimi normally works at the office in Korso, Vantaa, where the production facilities also are. MariMatic also has sales and project units in seven other countries. The company is part of MariMatic Group, which also includes metal production units in Vantaa and Tallinn and an electronics and electrics unit in Tuusula. The group has a turnover of over €40 million, and over a hundred people work on the subsidiaries’ projects.

Formator Tackles Trash Bags

There is not much competition in the waste collection system market. The largest international competitor is the Swedish company Envac, which also has clients in Finland.

One factor which sets MariMatic apart on the market is pipe diameter. When the pipe is only 300 mm in diameter, less energy is needed to create a vacuum than in the competitor’s 500 mm pipe.

“Thanks to Formator, a trash bag that is bigger than the pipe diameter fits down the chute,” Al-Dulaimi demonstrates.

This patented solution sucks in and stretches the bag, without breaking it, until it is narrow enough for the pipes. In principle, a trash bag too large for Formator cannot enter the system, as the collection station hatch is of a certain size. To resolve potential blocks, there are service hatches at fixed intervals along the pipe.

Residents Like Automation

In Finland, MariMatic systems are used in apartment blocks, shopping malls and care homes in Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, and Vantaa. The Mall of Tripla in Helsinki is perhaps the best-known.

Trash is not an issue in courtyards, as only the streamlined collection stations are seen above ground. The hatches are opened with an electronic key, allowing monitoring of trash volumes per individual apartment.

The company has service, maintenance, and operating contracts for the systems in use in Finland. These stipulate that the systems must function round the clock, every day of the week, with fixed response times.

“Residents like features such as the handy location of trash sorting in their courtyards and the fact that the trash containers cannot overflow, as they are emptied automatically,” Al-Dulaimi says.

Text and photos: Janne Luotola

The original text has been published in Insinööri Magazine