Heating Things Up

Features - Scrap Industry News

The C&D World Show touched on everything from processing mixed C&D to the cleanup efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

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March 23, 2006

Construction and demolition recycling professionals converged on Miami in mid-January for the C&D World Exhibition & Conference at the Hyatt Regency Miami. C&D World, which is the official show of the Construction Materials Recycling Association, was managed by GIE Media, the parent company of Recycling Today and sister publication Construction & Demolition Recycling magazines.

In addition to an exhibit hall featuring the products and services of 35 suppliers to the C&D recycling industry, the event also featured numerous networking activities and a strong educational program that covered everything from mixed C&D recycling to the flood of material in the wake of the 2005 hurricane season, to developments affecting C&D recycling in New England.

IN THE MIX. 2005 presented considerable challenges for mixed C&D recyclers in many parts of the country, as regulatory and environmental issues provoked questions within some end markets.

Speaking to attendees of the C&D World Conference, University of Florida researcher Tim Townsend reviewed controversies that have surrounded treated scrap wood and gypsum drywall.

In the case of drywall, the creation of malodorous (and potentially toxic) hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas in ground-up drywall has caused complaints from some users of alternative daily landfill cover (ADC) made from mixed C&D debris and of remediated soil (RSM) used to make berms and embankments.

The problem can be genuine and hard to deny when the rotten-egg odor begins to make its presence known, Townsend said.

He indicated, though, that the addition of certain materials might serve to stave off the creation of H2S within ADC. Such materials can include concrete fines and lime, according to Townsend.

Additionally, the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA) is working with the University of Florida to develop best management practices in the handling and sorting of mixed C&D materials to reduce the potential for H2S problems.

Mixed C&D recyclers have also been striving to keep wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) out of their end products for several years, as the arsenic contained in CCA is undesirable in boiler fuel shipments and in mulch.

Opening Up the Gates

Confronting the “not in my back yard” (NIMBY) attitude can become a full-time vocation for C&D recyclers, who are often made to feel unwelcome by nearby property owners who are newcomers to their traditional neighborhoods.

 

Speaking to attendees of the C&D World Conference, which took place in Miami in mid-January, Will Flower, a vice president with Republic Industries, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., noted that many recyclers are “losing their habitat,” much like forms of wildlife that suffer when development begins to encroach.

New residential developments, where buyers of new homes have spent considerably for their piece of the American dream, can be particularly problematic. “Even though we were there first, when they move in, this brings in a lot of pressure,” said Flower.

 

A key to communicating with such neighbors is understanding exactly what they have at stake, though, says Flower. In addition to their homes being their refuges, for most people it is also their single largest investment, so maintaining property values is a high priority.

A Wall Street Journal article from this January cited a study that found that one of every five homeowners in the U.S. had actively opposed some kind of development, by signing a petition, writing a letter, attending a meeting or through a variety of activities. “That’s a tremendous amount of people,” said Flower.

 

The three types of developments most often were landfills, casinos and power plants. The landfill stigma is of no help to many C&D recyclers, since in some cases recycling occurs on landfill sites while in others, recycling activity is considered a “waste” handling activity by those likely to complain.

 

Flower offered several suggestions for C&D recyclers to try to address future NIMBY-style troubles. Most involved communication and educating the surrounding community:

 

·       Make community relations a budget line item and pay proper attention to it

 

·       When communicating with neighbors, show an openness and willingness to accommodate differing opinions; don’t expect to deliver a monologue

 

·       Avoid the appearance of brokering a “back room deal” by sneaking into a neighborhood or quietly expanding operations

 

·       Be proud of what you do and go out into the community via business and community groups and Open House events.

 

“We need to be out there telling our story,” said Flower, so neighbors, voters and elected officials know “how critical our job is to the community.”

 

The C&D World Exhibition & Conference took place Jan. 15-17 in Miami. It is the official show of the Construction Materials Recycling Association and is managed by GIE Media Inc., publisher of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine.

But the widespread damage caused by Gulf Coast region hurricanes is only serving to bring more treated wood into the stream in the South at a time when processors do not have the time or labor power to sort carefully.

FLOOD OF MATERIAL. Americans watched with disbelief as storm after storm struck the Southeast United States in the summer of 2005. Afterwards, cleanup crews, landfill operators and recyclers tried their best to clean up after the hurricanes.

Two government officials provided C&D World attendees with an update from the battered region.

Mark Williams of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MEQ) showed slides of the intense damage that occurred along that state’s Gulf Coast, including buildings flattened or reduced to skeletons, vehicles swept away into wooded areas and trailers from the Port of Gulfport—many of them full of commodities such as Dole bananas—swept inland well away from the loading docks and warehouses.

While recycling advocates may wish to see recycling become part of the cleanup scenario, Williams said bluntly, "Mixed debris piles really pose a problem for any kind of reclamation."

Fending off the health and environmental effects of rotting food and other decomposing materials or of engine oils and other fluids inside vehicles and machinery took top priority.

In Mississippi, where some 236 people died and some 65,000 homes were destroyed, Hurricane Katrina created an estimated 41 million cubic yards of storm debris.

Phase I of the cleanup involved addressing sewage and raw food concerns, while Phase II involved clearing rights-of-way and authorizing temporary debris collection sites, according to Williams.

In Phase III, some recycling began taking place, as abandoned appliances and vehicles began to be processed within the scrap metals recycling stream. Some vegetation debris was also processed, not only for disposal, but also for possible recycling.

Phases IV and V, currently underway, involve further cleanup and the eventual closing of the temporary collection sites.

Williams listed several obstacles to recycling in the post-Katrina environment, including the mixed nature of the debris, the presence of contamination (mold in particular) and the pressure to act quickly to clean up the damage.

Future recycling opportunities look brighter, however, particularly as landfills in the region have reached capacity.

Marcella Denton of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent November and December in Mississippi, engaged in storm cleanup and debris removal.

As of December, Denton noted that debris was still on the ground in such hard hit towns as Pass Christian, Miss., and that many remaining structures are awaiting further repair.

On the positive side, the hurricanes could help spawn an infrastructure rebuilding boom that will help to heat up new construction activity, which has shown signs of cooling.

CONCRETE CONCLUSIONS. The single-family housing boom has been on an unprecedented roll that is likely slowing down, admits Edward J. Sullivan, chief economist with the Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill.

But in his presentation to attendees of the C&D World Expo, Sullivan predicted that what the overall construction sector loses in single-family development, it will probably gain back as commercial construction and public spending on highways rebounds.

The consumer sector, which Sullivan says now accounts for nearly 70 percent of economic activity in the United States, has buoyed the construction and demolition industries with frenzied spending on new homes the past several years.

Spending overall from consumers may slow down for a number of reasons, including increased energy prices and an exhaustion of home equity credit lines that have been spent to the maximum by many consumers.

Contractors, however, are benefiting from the passage of a new federal transportation bill in 2005, which has put into motion a number of projects in almost every state that were waiting for federal funding to come through.

Additionally, the solid consumer economy of the last few years has put money in corporate coffers, with businesses ranging from retailers, manufacturers and service providers such as hotel chains now flush with cash that is being re-invested in new projects.

Increased commercial activity, combined with renewed highway spending, is leading to building projects that are especially heavy in their use of concrete, steel and other heavy-duty materials. "For every $1 of construction activity now, we are using more and more concrete," Sullivan said.

TROUBLES IN NEW ENGLAND. Despite its key role as a sustainable activity, the recycling of C&D materials is facing serious environmental barriers in New England.

John Blaisdell, president of the New England Chapter of the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), outlined challenges taking place in that region to attendees of the C&D World Conference.

But even in the Bay State, there are disposal options, Blaisdell noted. "What keeps prices in check is a lot of waste going out by rail and truck to Ohio, Pennsylvania and even South Carolina."

New England is a battleground for the H2S controversy surrounding the gypsum drywall portion of alternative daily landfill cover (ADC) created from mixed C&D fines.

Blaisdell says "the problem is real" and resulted in one of the region’s largest customers for C&D ADC, the Cottage Street Landfill in Worcester, Mass., halting the use of the material.

Blaisdell and the CMRA are developing best management practices and to conduct tests that can eliminate the H2S problem. "I am absolutely confident these products can be used successfully," he said of C&D fines used as ADC and as a remediated soil substitute in berms and embankments.

The author is editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.