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Finding a Niche

Features - Commodity Focus, C&D

Mixed C&D recyclers are finding outlets for materials other than wood, concrete and metal.

Kristin Smith June 11, 2012

As mixed C&D recyclers all over the United States struggle to find outlets for the materials that enter their facilities, there is one company, located in rural Pennsylvania, that is giving them an option for vinyl siding.

Trucks filled with bales of vinyl siding from as far away as Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina arrive at Shermans Valley Recycling in Loysville, Pa., about 30 miles west of Harrisburg in the south central region of Pennsylvania. They make their way around the winding, two-lane road, over the bridge and up the steep hill leading to the facility.

The inconspicuous recycling facility nestled in an Amish community specializes in the recycling of vinyl siding, but also recycles PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fencing, plastic lumber, cardboard and some aluminum from local contractors.

According to co-owner Sam Fisher, taking in these building materials helps C&D recyclers and contractors increase their landfill diversion rates and helps construction projects earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points from the U.S. Green Building Council.


Lessons from the Farm
Fisher has a background in farming but says the lessons learned in farming are easily adapted to the recycling business.

The facility is not attached to the electrical grid. All of the machinery’s hydraulics are powered by a diesel generator.

“I love to work with equipment,” says Fisher, adding, “It’s rewarding to see all of the materials start from what some people view as trash and go out the other end as a valuable product.”
 


Shermans Valley Recycling is situated amidst miles of farmland in Perry County, Pa. Workers use a tool adapted from the agricultural industry to tear apart bales of vinyl siding. The vinyl siding is separated into light and dark fractions. The facility uses custom-built shaker tables and conveyors. Material goes through shredders and rare earth magnets before entering a granulator. There is also a washing system for the dirtier scrap that enters the facility.

Gaining Traction

Vinyl siding isn’t the only C&D material that has a growing end market. Carpet also is gaining traction as manufactures find ways to use the fibers in their processes.

The carpet manufacturing firm Interface, headquartered in LaGrange, Ga., developed its ReEntry program in 2007 as a way to recover type 6 and 6,6 nylon fiber for recycling.

In May, Interface finalized a strategic partnership with The Carpet Recyclers, a carpet recycling operation based in La Mirada, Calif. Since being established two years ago, The Carpet Recyclers has collected more than 150 million pounds of used carpet.

“The alternative nonvirgin materials we use in place of oil must be plentiful and readily available, and so we’ve turned to recycling and processing not only our own end-of-use carpet tiles but those of other manufacturers, along with the broadloom discards of the entire industry,” says John Wells, president of Interface Americas.

“The technology in place in our own ReEntry facility is able to transform this flooring trash into reusable fiber that goes back into producing our new products. It closes the loop.”

Interface says a scarcity of post-consumer nylon limiting the company’s key yarn suppliers is a main reason it launched an expansion initiative for its ReEntry program in 2011.

The regrind produced from the process is shipped to manufacturers who use it to make new siding containing recycled content. Fisher estimates the company ships about 100,000 pounds of regrind per week.

Shermans Valley Recycling currently has nine employees and operates a 50-hour work week. Most of the employees are from Fisher’s Amish church and share his background in farming. “I have a very good team of guys,” he says.


Lots of Potential
According to Fisher, the facility has the capacity to accept a much higher volume of material than what it is currently getting. It currently receives about two truckloads of vinyl siding per week.

“The potential is there to get a lot more product,” says Fisher, but he says, there isn’t enough awareness among contractors and recyclers.

Before Shermans Valley Recycling was started, the facility was used to manufacture PVC porch posts and fencing. Fisher oversaw that operation and 10-and-a-half years later, the owner decided to sell the company. The new owner moved the operation to Lancaster, Pa. Fisher found himself at a crossroads, having to decide whether to relocate his family or to start his own business at the plant in Loysville.

“I wanted a challenge, so I definitely got it,” says Fisher of deciding to stay in Loysville. It was a difficult decision at the time, but Fisher says, “I find that maybe that was a blessing down the road.”


Persevering
In 2006, Fisher bough a small grinder. At that time, it took the company about two months to make a load of PVC regrind for shipment. He recalls that the first load the company produced was rejected because of materials in the load that the buyer didn’t want.

“They were very gracious about it,” Fisher says. “They kept the material and still paid us for some of it.”

That didn’t deter Fisher one bit. “We just kept going and getting our quality better,” he says.

Last year, Shermans Valley Recycling processed 4.5 million pounds of PVC.

It was through plastics recycling that Fisher got the idea to start recycling vinyl siding. He saw an ad in a plastics magazine that read, “Vinyl siding regrinds wanted,” and he says he thought, “We have a lot of contractors around here that don’t know what to do with their siding. That might be something to check into.”

A company in Maryland helped Shermans Valley Recycling get off the ground with recycling vinyl siding. The businessman Fisher made contact with told him what material to buy and what equipment was needed. “We are still good friends today,” Fisher says.

The challenge has been obtaining enough material to make it work.

“There were times I wanted to just quit,” says Fisher. But he didn’t. In 2010, he brought on a partner in the business, Elam Stoltzfus, who also is a relative.

In addition to the loads Shermans Valley Recycling receives from C&D processors and contractors along the East Coast, the company has 34 10-yard roll-off containers placed within a 50 mile radius of the facility for vinyl siding.

Closing the Loop

C&D recyclers interested in finding new outlets and markets for C&D materials may benefit from attending the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum, Sept. 23-25, at the Long Beach Hilton and Executive Meeting Center in Long Beach, Calif.

In a session titled “Closing New Loops” at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24, speakers will discuss ways C&D recyclers can diversify their material streams and tap into emerging end markets. Ron Greitzer of carpet recycling firm LA Fiber, Vermon, Calif., and Andy Lake of ceiling and flooring manufacturer Armstrong, Lancaster, Pa., are among the speakers for this session who will discuss how recyclers can divert these materials.

Information on programming and registration for the C&D Recycling Forum is available at www.CDRecycler.com/Forum.

The company also keeps 30-yard roll-off containers at siding distributors in the area. These distributors allow people to bring in used siding at no charge and place it in the containers. The arrangement is a win-win, according to Fisher. “We get the material, and [the distributors] get the new business.”

While there have been ups and downs during the years, Fisher says he has received positive feedback from his customers and he is heartened by it. “A lot of people encourage us and say ‘thank you for doing what you are doing.’”

Fisher is grateful to his vendors as well. “Without them, we wouldn’t be in business,” he says. He also says he receives a lot of business from vendor recommendations. “I’m so amazed at some of the companies that call,” he says. “That’s rewarding to me because it tells me they are happy with the service.”

Of his business dealings Fisher says, “We want to pay a fair price for good quality material and treat our vendors and our customers like we would want to be treated.”

Looking back on how his career has unfolded, Fisher says, “It was a big let down when I could no longer work for that company, and a couple guys told me, ‘Sam just keep going. Someday you might be in something that is a whole lot better.’” He wasn’t sure he agreed with them at the time. “Years later,” he says, “I see that maybe this is something that will work out.”

Fisher concludes by saying, “I thank the Lord for what he has provided so far. I feel very blessed for all the people that we are working with through C&D recycling.”


 

The author is managing editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling, a sister publication of Recycling Today, and can be reached at ksmith@gie.net.

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