Recycled C&D: Not Just the Law, But Cash in Your Pocket

Sept. 11, 2012

More construction-and-demolition debris is being recycled today than ever before. “Money drives it,” sums up Greg Harla, one of the partners at Pavement Recyclers LLC in Shelton, CT. The general theme seems to be avoiding tipping fees at landfills, which appear to be on the rise, but other contributing factors also influence the trend. “It’s a huge cost factor. They’re charging $15-$20 per ton to bring in materials for recycling, but there’s nowhere to dump it. Real estate is scarce; there’s nowhere to put stuff. Washington DC sends it north.”

When tipping fees are low, recycling doesn’t pay, according to Tim Griffing, systems engineer with Continental Biomass Industries. But $25 minimum tipping fees and higher population density regulations are forcing recycling.

Money will drive recycling and “green” will follow, Brad Van Rheenen, applications specialist with Vermeer Manufacturing Co., believes. “When tipping fees become cost-prohibitive, contractors will find uses for recycled materials…and methods of processing them.”

“You pull out useful materials,” says Brian Hartensveld, operations manager for Construction and Industrial Equipment Corp., a dealer for Diamond Z in Lodi, NJ. For example, foam that would typically be sent to a landfill can be converted into a 1.5-inch product that is burned for energy, such as generating steam for turbines. Doing so, Hartensveld says, costs less than taking the material to a landfill.

Asphalt, which is dense and heavy, is also costly to haul to a landfill. Fortunately, Harla says, it’s a “potential profit center for recyclers” because it can be recycled for paving uses. “It costs $20 a ton to process, but it has a $60- to $80-per-ton street value. Plant mix is $74-$80 per ton new.” Because it offers an optional source of hot mix when the plants are closed for the winter, he says it could even undercut the market.

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Recycling has become profitable and popular. Bob Rossi, vice president of RR Equipment, considers recycling a necessity. “Ninety percent of contractors like to be environmentally sensitive. Being environmentally correct is the new profitable,” he says, explaining that it saves on trucking expenses, raw material costs, and tipping fees. Despite-or perhaps because of-a bad economy, the interest level has been consistent, he says, and he expects more work for recyclers as the economy improves.

Rossi indicates that most contractors try to recycle everything they can on a job site: “asphalt shingles, concrete, anything brittle… It’s crazy not to recycle.” He goes on to explain that some jobs require recycling as part of the bid and that the government can mandate it, regardless of the cost. In fact, several in the industry see “currents” leading to mandatory recycling.

Miriano “Max” Ravazzolo, CEO of MB America Inc., in Reno, NV, has already seen some cities require demolition jobs to reuse a percentage of materials in new construction. It contributes to the increased interest in recycling. “Recycling is getting traction; our market is steady.” In fact, MB Group grew 25% last year.

Looking ahead, Rossi believes recycling will become ever more prevalent. “In 50 years, every garbage can will be recycled. Landfills will be like gold: we need to maximize space by putting in only items that cannot be recycled. Recycling is about looking at the future and being responsible…but you also have to be globally competitive.”

As Rossi sums up, “It just makes sense to recycle.”

Wood Eye?
With the proper tools, there isn’t much that can’t be recycled, but Griffing estimates that 40% of recycled material is wood. Using it as mulch, horse bedding, a bulking agent for compost, fuel for cement kilns and particle board takes it out of the waste-stream and allows contractors to avoid tipping fees, which he says are especially high in the northeast and California, where “land space is expensive.” It also eliminates transportation costs from no-burn states like Massachusetts to Maine or Canada for recycling as particle board and energy, or to Pennsylvania for cement kilns.

The key is recycling, not just reducing what goes to a landfill, says Rick Cohen, president of Screen USA, a manufacturer of portable plants and grinders. Recycling all depends on how well the material is separated. “The more separation, the more end products.”

Cohen is also associated with GrinderCrusherScreen Inc., the only US manufacturer of trommel and scraper screens. That company recently introduced the patented GCS Waste Density Wizard 1000 and 1200. These models separate a commingled product such as a mixture of wood, rocks, dirt, and plastic into piles of similar product. Density separators have been available for years; however, the Waste Density Wizard screens the material; air separates the light film plastic or paper; and water separates the rocks from the wood and pulls out the sludge, all in one compact machine. GCI president Neal Kaiserman says demand from recyclers for one machine to separate fines, film plastic, paper, rocks, and wood is widespread. “Until recently, customers would have to use picking stations and other technologies to achieve this task.”

Most C&D yards take in a variety of materials, such as wood, brick, concrete, steel, and plastic. These materials are sometimes shredded by a high-torque, slow-speed shredder to simplify the hauling process. Once this commingled material comes into the C&D yard, it is recommended that all of the material be run through a screening plant to remove the material larger than 12 inches and remove the fines (one-half-inch and smaller). All of the remaining material can be run under a magnet and inert separator and into the Waste Wizard, resulting in individual piles of wood, plastic, aggregate, excess dirt, and sludge.

The advantage of clean materials makes the wood marketable to be used for fuel and the aggregate for construction. Another application is for woodwaste yards that use wood grinders to make fuel or mulch. The film plastic and rocks have to be removed to make this a premium material.

Cohen prefers to place his horizontal wood grinders onsite to encourage contractors to reuse as much as possible. “Small C&D companies put the material in containers and send it to landfills. Freight is expensive, tipping fees are high. If they have the right machine, a lot of them are starting to reuse material onsite.”

Because 60% of demolition sites are small, Cohen says, there’s a big market for smaller machines. “I sell used machines in all sizes, but I sell mostly new machines for smaller operations.” The 160-240 horsepower Hammerhead is optimal for small C&D operations.

The first step is manual picking to separate steel, concrete and wood. Griffing mentions a job in Yorktown that was designed in two phases. The first phase has a primary screen to separate out the 3-inch-minus fines. There are two wood conveyors that allow all the pickers to sort wood, as “there’s so much wood, everyone needs to pick wood along with their primary product, such as metal, aggregate, or cardboard.”

CBI shredders produce a rough product that can be broken down into items: A wood, which is clean, and B wood-contaminated, painted, or pressure-treated. “You don’t want it too small, so pickers can pull out and identify product,” Griffing explains.

Although CBI designs, builds, and installs screens, grinders and shredders, Griffing says, “Grinders drive us.” For 12 years, the company has been grinding waste, providing machines for family-owned waste handlers in the private sector who were hauling refuse-and spending millions on fees. “They discovered it’s cheaper to recycle and become their own customer.”

One demolition customer who also owns a landfill discovered he was strategically positioned to get business from his competitors because he could quickly process their material and recycle as much as possible to meet LEED requirements.

“Our trommels are not the conventional round,” Griffing says. “Our eight-sided trommel is extremely heavy-duty and makes it easy to change the screen. It’s also more aggressive and has a more durable drum.” He goes on to say that CBI builds the “heaviest duty” machines with off-the-shelf parts, so repairs are easier. “We overbuild our equipment because we know how costly downtime is.”

Hitting the Road
Wood isn’t the only material recycled onsite. “In Georgia, they used to remove sidewalks and haul the material to landfills, then buy base,” Cohen says. “Now they’re crushing and reusing it onsite, saving money on freight, landfill costs, manpower, and time.”

In tight urban spaces where sidewalks are common, a big crusher won’t fit. The Red Rhino is a highly portable small crusher for small C&D operations. “It’s the size of a small car, Cohen says. “It fits on the roadside and is simple to haul on a Bobcat trailer.” It can also get up some of the trails in New England, where crews use it to pick up rocks in the path and crush them for sub-base.

GCS Inc., which manufactures crushers for concrete, concrete block and brick, also offers a machine to separate plastic, wood, and rock. The brand new Waste Recycler is all electric, portable, unique, and under $200,000.

Asphalt can be reheated, resold, and reused. Any roadway being repaved is a potential source of material. “They remove the top 2.5 inches off the surface with a planer,” Harla explains. “The millings have to go somewhere. They were stockpiled, but it’s an oil-covered aggregate-it’s not good for the environment. Currently, the price of asphalt is up. When it’s $35 a ton, recycling is a luxury; when it’s $80 a ton, it’s a necessity.”

Pavement Recyclers is the US distributor for the most widely used asphalt recycler. Often used by municipalities, private contractors, large paving contractors and utility contractors that do a lot of paving, the diesel-powered Kubota features an oil-fired burner that heats the drum to convert bituminous concrete into hot mix asphalt. Requiring only one operator, it can recycle 10-12 tons per hour with minimal emissions. “It can be used in any application the original product is,” Harla indicates. “If it was a clean tear-off with no byproducts, you’re talking 100% recyclables.”

In some cases, the recycled material stands as a product on its own, such as aggregate base or shoulder material from crushed and recycled concrete or asphalt paving. Alternatively, the material can be reblended with other components in a product. “Recycling continues to grow,” says Dick Pohorsky, regional sales manager for McLanahan Corp., Universal Products, “and more and more companies are seeing the advantages in doing their own recycle crushing. When the desire to be green is combined with profit, it makes a very compelling force.”

So many are beginning to feel the same way that McLanahan-Universal Products, which has been involved in recycle crushing of concrete and asphalt materials for over 30 years, expanded the scope of its recycle crushing to include steel slag, aluminum slag/salt cakes, glass, and other materials. Its crushers can be modified and adapted to fit a variety of crushable material, while its feeding, crushing, and screening products can be adapted to stationary sites or mounted on portable frames to go where the work is.

Even asphalt shingles can be recycled for use as sub-base on roads. “If we can process it, we’re going to,” Van Rheenen says. “In fact, some states mandate a percentage of road be made of recycled shingles.” That has led to an increase in demand, which in turn caused manufacturers to modify grinders to handle shingles.

However, shingles pose a challenge because they are highly abrasive, which causes a lot of wear on the cutters, and because the fine dust created during processing plugs up the radiator. Van Rheenen says they use radiator filters and add water to the mixture as a sort of atomizer to knock down the dust.

Separation Anxiety
While many grinders can process many kinds of materials, from asphalt and shingles to concrete, metal, glass, and wood, those products need to be separated first-which Van Rheenen says can be a bigger job than finding uses for the end products.

Credit: GrinderCrusherScreen Inc.

Vermeer’s horizontal tub grinders are all high-speed grinders, a crucial aspect for removing contaminants. In addition, a magnetic pulley has the ability to remove some metal, with an optional over-band magnet over the discharge conveyor that grabs more.

When it comes to choosing a grinder, Van Rheenen says a tub grinder is generally more productive, but it includes a safety disadvantage because of the “thrown object zone,” particularly when it isn’t full. It’s dangerous to be too close, so when used on residential, business or highway jobs where space is confined, it could become an issue. A hard hat is required, even if a deflector or restraint system is incorporated.

Horizontal grinders have a more predictable throw path and have no restrictions on the length of the material being fed into them. However, because they have more moving parts, they requires more maintenance.

Other choices to take into consideration include diesel versus electric. A diesel-powered grinder is more portable, but poses more of a fire risk. “An electric grinder should be stationery because it’s hardwired,” Van Rheenen says. It’s also more economical.

Already the only company in the world offering a full line of recycling products, such as tub and horizontal grinders, trommel screens and compost burners, Van Rheenen says Vermeer is currently working on prototypes of new, smaller grinders to expand its line, such as diesel-powered grinders in the 450-horsepower to 1,150-horsepower range and electric grinders from 400 horsepower to 600 horsepower.

A 755-horsepower model remains the company’s most popular and productive. “It can clean 350 to 550 yards of C&D with 4- to 5-inch screen per hour,” Van Rheenen estimates. The HG 6000, a horizontal grinder in the 60,000-pound weight class, has graduated from a Tier 3 machine with 630 horsepower to an emissions-compliant Tier 4 machine with 755 horsepower. “It was a ground-up redesign,” Van Rheenen describes. “We made screening surface changes and adjusted screen carriers. It has 20% more horsepower and is 30% more productive. Production is up greatly, thanks to improvements in the cutting design.” A track machine version is also available.

The HG 4000 trailer unit with 450 horsepower is a redesign of a track machine. Track machines are portable on a job site, particularly in muddy conditions. Trailer versions are portable between job sites, but track machines offer dolly system options for hauling without a trailer. “You drive the track machine into it and it attaches the track to the dolly system, becoming the back end of the trailer,” Van Rheenen describes. “The dolly is the rear axle of the semi-truck.”

In addition to grinders, Vermeer (formerly Wildcat) manufacturers trommel screens. “You can run product through a trommel screen to separate products, then regrind it,” Van Rheenen explains. “You can screen wood with stumps, bricks, or concrete.” He mentions a customer-a contractor in Des Moines-who has a 6-foot drum and a 20-foot-long screen. “He used to take material to the landfill, mixed with dirt. Now he’s able to separate the dirt from the other material. That reduces the tipping fee and provides useable dirt. He’s not leaving money on the table. Some guys are using machines in ways we never considered. It sparks ideas.”

Not the Same Old Grind
Interest in recycling equipment is sparking ideas for Diamond Z. “We’re getting more calls, doing more demonstrations,” Hartensveld indicates. “Two weeks ago, we did a trial at a scrap metal facility, grinding fluff (foam, plastic, and residual from crushing cars).” Other than choosing a different screen size, they made no other modifications. “The hammermill tolerates all kinds of material.”

Horizontal grinders make up 80%-90% of the company’s sales because they’re safer and more efficient, Hartensveld says. “They pull material into the hammermill; it’s a big feed roller. When the machine is empty, nothing comes out, so it’s easier to control the throw zone. A tub grinder is not safe.”

Nevertheless, some of Diamond Z’s customers still prefer them. “The New York Botanical Gardens is getting a new tub grinder after two years,” Hartensveld indicates. The facility reuses brush and leaves as mulch. “Grinding leaves for compost is big business. In New Jersey we rake leaves into the street for the city to haul off.”

Despite the Gardens’ preference, Hartensveld says calls for tub grinders are rare and he doesn’t carry them on his lot. Instead, a popular Diamond Z model is the self-propelled DZH 4000 TK horizontal grinder on tracks. “If it never leaves the site, put it on wheels,” he advises. “But if you do contracting, tracks can deal better with variable site conditions at different locations.”

One thing he cautions customers about is that these are high-maintenance machines, “as in every day.” Abrasive material causes a lot of wear, especially on the cutting surfaces. Although the 30 teeth on a hammermill are reversible, Hartensveld recommends owning an air compressor and impact gun for routine maintenance. “There’s considerable expense in owning and operating a grinder … but it still saves money over a landfill.”

Attached to the Job
Most landfills are filled up by small contractors because it’s easier, even if it’s more expensive, says Bob Rossi. That’s why, he says, RR Equipment was on the cutting edge 10 years ago when it introduced the Crush-All, which provided an affordable recycling solution for company owners interested in getting into a recycling operation with minimal investment. “You can’t provide equipment just for big contractors.”

The Crush-All is an attachment for excavators. “It’s a glorified hydraulic hammer that grinds anything brittle: toilets, sinks, TVs, car engines,” Rossi describes. “It’s versatile.” Not all crushers are designed to handle concrete with metal, but this is designed to handle a wide range of applications, including “big chunks of concrete with embedded rebar and wire.” One of its advantages is that it has few moving parts. “It’s very simple.”

Because RR Equipment focuses on “growing with the client,” it offers the “next step” in the Rebel Crusher, which Rossi refers to as a “Swiss army knife” because it has “every imaginable feature.” A self-cleaning magnet pulls out metal, and a screen system removes debris and separates crushed concrete into different sizes. “It’s like a mini-rock quarry on tracks.” Radio remote control, a safety feature, can be operated from 100 yards away. It sets up in 10 minutes and doesn’t require a permit for urban sites. “It’s a medium-range product for 70% of the market,” Rossi estimates. Capable of processing 100 or more tons an hour, he says the machine pays for itself quickly.

Both the Crush-All and the Rebel Crusher are patented products, the only ones of their kind in the world, Rossi states. Made for the American market, they provide higher output, generous horsepower and larger feed openings. “The machine won’t stall with big pieces. Guys have to be profitable every hour.”

If landfills are filled up by small contractors, Max Ravazzolo believes that’s because most jobs are small. One-unit jobs aren’t worth a mobile crusher, he says, adding that they aren’t allowed on some job sites due to noise or dust. “People need an alternative.”

Ravazzolo believes that alternative is MB America’s bucket crusher, an attachment for excavators that doesn’t require permits and puts out low noise. The jaw crusher can handle concrete with rebar-an advantage over big crushers, he points out.

The crushing attachment is not just a small crusher; it’s a different way of crushing, Ravazzolo explains. “You gain in flexibility what you lose in production.” Monetary gains come from not having to arrange for transportation of a portable crusher, which he estimates can be up to $6,000 each way. “Ours takes 10 minutes to attach.”

Even large construction companies can benefit from it in situations where big crushers are not feasible. “With the right application, it’s more convenient than a big crusher,” Ravazzolo says. “You don’t have to organize the feeding chain for the big crusher (load a truck at the place of demolition, drive the load to the crusher, unload, repeat…). You take our crushing attachment along the way as you progress.”

One MB America customer won the bid on a 1.5-mile road project on Long Island on the beach. His bid of $140,000 to resurface roadway that had been eaten by sea and salt included picking up and hauling away the old surface. “He tried the bucket crusher on a 20-foot stretch-picking up concrete, crushing it, and rolling it as base,” Ravazzolo recalls. “The inspector approved, so he did the whole job with our crusher in a month and a half, using only two people, spending only $60,000. He told me he never made so much money in such little time!”

Excavators are workhorses, performing production work eight hours a day, seven days a week. But, Ravazzolo says, “there are 20 skid-steers for every excavator.” That’s why MB America introduced a new line for Bobcat skid-steers and small backloaders in April.

Steely Determination
If wood makes up the highest percentage of C&D that gets recycled, iron and steel have the most volume in scrap metals…and are where the money is. “Copper and platinum are also high-dollar, but are less common,” says Steve Brezinski, heavy equipment product manager for materials handlers at Terex, who indicates that most of their equipment is in scrap yards.

Transfer stations sort through C&D and municipal waste, which is processed in feeder yards and sent to manufacturers or exported to developing nations. “It’s standard practice, especially with metal.”

After a building is demolished, contractors sort through materials using a grapple or magnet. Terex’s grapple features 360-degree rotation of the upper carriage, providing better visibility than the fixed cab of a wheel loader or excavator. It also has a longer reach, which allows it to stack higher. “It’s adept at sorting, cleanup and loading trucks and trailers,” Brezinski adds. “It improves efficiency.”

Terex’s MHL 350 is a solid rubber tire machine for the scrap yard with a 52-foot reach boom and stick. Rubber tires are faster and more efficient. “A lot of yards are improving, adding paved roads for peddler traffic, so rubber tires make sense,” Brezinski believes.

Differentiating features include its long reach, 18-foot eye level, and onboard equipment, including a generator and full-color display monitor and push-button controls. “It’s ergonomic and versatile,” Brezinski sums up. Estimating that it can save 20-30 minutes loading trailers because the upper part of the machine rotates, he says, “You don’t have to move the machine as much due to the longer reach. It’s good for tight spaces. Efficiency is also gained through visibility.”

Range is No. 1. The MHL 350 is used for sorting and cleanup due to its ultra-long reach. “It was used in the Katrina cleanup for trees and wood because of its reach,” Brezinski says. A customer in Kansas uses it to sort metals in C&D material, reloading vessels headed for C&D landfills. Other customers include metal scrap yards, transfer stations and anyone who does bulk material handling, such as unloading sand and coal off barges. “It can reach across the barge. Elevating the cab helps.” Elevating the cab for operator efficiency is No. 2.

“It’s a flexible tool. You can add clamshell buckets for aggregates, a magnet for shredded material, or shears. It helps maximize recyclables on a demo site. If you’re in a growth industry or expanding your business, you need efficiency to get through the volume and to process more volume daily.”