BHS-Sonthofen: More than a million refrigeration units cost-effectively recycled

BHS-Sonthofen: More than a million refrigeration units cost-effectively recycled

Internal view of the BHS Rotorshredder of type RS

Rotorshredder proves its worth in mechanical crushing

The BHS Rotorshredder has proven its worth in practice in the mechanical crushing of refrigeration units at the recycling company H.J. Hansen A/S in Odense, Denmark. Since its commissioning, the machine has processed more than a million units. The appraisal after five years is highly positive: energy and wear-related costs are nearly half of those from other processes.

In 2007, H.J. Hansen A/S, one of the largest recycling companies in Denmark, planned the construction of a new plant with the capacity to recycle approximately 200,000 household refrigeration units, constituting a large part of Denmark“s annual yield. The units were to be recycled in single-shift operation, according to material type and in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner. From the start, H.J. Hansen had the goal of processing at least 100 units per hour – nearly twice as many as was usual in the recycling industry.

Its favorable experience in the crushing and disaggregation of mixed electrical waste led H.J. Hansen to order a BHS Rotorshredder of type RS 3218. This machine was the largest Rotorshredder built thus far and was the first for crushing refrigeration units.

With a diameter of 3,200 mm and a height of 1,800 mm, the working chamber can handle refrigeration units measuring up to 1,000 x 1,200 x 2,000 mm (W x D x H) and weighing up to 100 kg. This means that even large refrigerator-freezer units are crushed in one step, without the need for pre-crushing.

Once the components made of glass or wood, plastic films, electric cables, condensers, mercury switches, and compressors have been manually removed, a conveyor belt feeds the refrigeration units into the working chamber of the Rotorshredder. The chamber contains rotating hammers fastened to a high-speed vertical shaft. The Rotorshredder crushes the units through impact, punching and shear forces.

The solids are automatically sorted into ferromagnetic and non-ferromagnetic parts (predominantly aluminum and copper), plastics and polyurethane foam. The blowing agents released during crushing as well as the separated PU foam are disposed of entirely in accordance with the pertinent regulations.

Positive results

The plant has been in continuous single-shift operation since 2008 and has worked more than 8,000 hours to date. It still meets all the requirements defined at the start of the project, and does even more: it currently processes around 140 units – or approximately 6.8 tonnes – per hour. This corresponds to an average crushing time of 25 seconds per unit. The authors know of no other plant which achieves a higher throughput rate.

A test of 1,000 units carried out by a Swedish supplier of scrap refrigeration units in 2013 confirmed the plant’s performance, both in terms of compliance with permitted CFC emissions as well as the quality of the accurately separated final products.

Low costs

The excellent crushing performance and short processing time result in a very high degree of energy efficiency and therefore low energy costs. The average electrical power requirement is only 120 kW. This results in a specific energy consumption of only 18.5 kWh per tonne.

The wear-related costs are also extremely low in comparison to other crushing machines: they are less than three euro per tonne. Moreover, maintenance costs are low. As they do not cut but rather function by force of impact, the rotating hammers do not need to be adjusted or sharpened. Only a daily visual inspection is necessary.


With this plant, H.J. Hansen and BHS-Sonthofen have proven that refrigeration units can be recycled safely and inexpensively with the Rotorshredder. Due to the Rotorshredder“s low operating costs, H.J. Hansen can run the entire plant not just economically but also profitably.


The Rotorshredder of type RS 3218 can crush up to 150 refrigeration units per hour. In three-shift operation, it could thus achieve a much higher performance of approximately 3,250 refrigeration units per day, and more than 800,000 units per year.
With an expanded sorting facility, it is also possible to process electrical and electronic waste (WEEE) in the same plant as the refrigeration units.

The IC process

For the treatment of gases in the refrigeration units, BHS has recently developed the IC process, a new technology for treating refrigeration units containing CFCs or hydrocarbons.

The central machine in this process is once again the BHS Rotorshredder. The refrigerants and blowing agents that are recaptured during the process undergo thermal-catalytic conversion and are completely transformed into harmless substances such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and dilute acids or saline solutions. Beyond this, the process allows for major cost savings.

The IC process also has major advantages in terms of efficient energy use: pentane, which is used increasingly in modern refrigeration units, has a substantial energy content and can thus assist the thermal treatment of the gases, up to the point of thermally self-sufficient operation. Compared to conventional plants, the process achieves remarkably large cost savings.
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About H.J. Hansen A/S

The H.J. Hansen Group is a family-owned group of companies, with roots stretching back six generations. The company was established in 1829 as a grocery shop in Odense, Denmark and since then has developed into an international supplier of high-grade materials – in particular metals. The core business is the conversion of recyclable materials into marketable products.

The shredder plants in Odense and Hadsund process up to one million tonnes of scrap with a maximum thickness of 16 mm per year. The plant has a capacity of more than 250 vehicles per hour. The final product is ferritic scrap with a purity of 99 percent, which can then be re-melted. H.J. Hansen also sells metals and plastics for other recycling applications.

The plant in Odense processes white goods such as refrigerators and freezers and has a capacity of more than 1,000 units per day in single-shift operation. In Trollhättan, Sweden, H.J. Hansen operates a granulation plant for cables.

About BHS-Sonthofen GmbH

BHS-Sonthofen GmbH, headquartered in Sonthofen in Southern Germany, is an owner-operated group of companies in the field of machine and plant engineering. The company offers technical solutions in the field of mechanical process engineering, with a focus on mixing, crushing, recycling and filtration. With over 300 employees and a number of subsidiaries, BHS-Sonthofen has a global presence.

The Recycling Technology division offers a broad range of machines and plants for the recycling industry. The spectrum encompasses the treatment of brittle-hard waste materials such as electronic scrap, slag, shredder residue fractions, etc. or of elastic materials such as tires, cables and refuse-derived fuels.

For more information, visit

BHS-Sonthofen GmbH
Roland Schmid
An der Eisenschmelze 47
D-87527 Sonthofen, Germany
+49 8321 6099-231

Regina Reinhardt
Süsterfeldstrasse 83
52072 Aachen, Germany

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