Taking the LEED

Features - Scrap Industry News

For those seeking LEED points, avoiding the landfill becomes a priority, even in areas with abundant landfill space.

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August 18, 2009

Providers of equipment used for sorting mixed C&D debris often have to sell not just the quality of their own equipment but also the value proposition of investing money and time into creating marketable products from what has long been considered a waste stream.

Throughout much of the past decade, that value proposition was often dependent upon regional landfill costs. The correlation was often simple—the higher the landfill costs, the better the chances that operating a mixed C&D recycling system made sense.

That correlation still very much exists, but an extra factor in the mix that has a more national rather than regional aspect to it is the growth of building projects seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

FOLLOW THE LEEDER

A combination of high landfill costs and mandatory recycling goals helped spur much of the investment into mixed C&D sorting systems in California, New England and other regions on both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts.

Those factors still play a role, but increasingly systems have been installed in parts of the country where landfill access has not typically been considered a problem and recycling mandates are not on the books.

In Ohio, home to Kurtz Bros. Inc. (profiled in the May/June issue of Recycling Today’s sister publication Construction & Demolition Recycling in the article "Panoramic View," available at www.cdrecycler.com), some of the state’s numerous landfills welcome inbound shipments from other parts of the country, and few municipalities have enacted recycling mandates.

But Kurtz Bros.’ managers witnessed the momentum for LEED-related recycling requests building and in 2007 and 2008 invested (assisted by a state grant) in an automated mixed C&D sorting system provided by General Kinematics, Crystal Lake, Ill., and Sherbrooke OEM, Quebec.

A May 2008 Akron Beacon-Journal news article covering the opening of the Kurtz Bros. mixed C&D facility notes that tipping fees in Ohio range from $8 to $16 per ton, plus a $1 per ton fee charged by the state.

Proceeds from that fee helped fund the equipment Kurtz Bros. purchased for its mixed C&D plant near Cleveland.

Chet Chaney of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told the Beacon-Journal, "We would like to see a network of these facilities in different regions of the state." The article mentions that Frank Road C&D in Columbus was in the process of planning a mixed C&D system with Ohio grant money.

A Major Switch

FirstEnergy Corp., Akron, Ohio, has announced that it plans to convert two power units at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, to generate electricity principally with biomass feedstock.

When the retrofit is complete, the Burger Plant is expected to be one of the largest biomass facilities in the United States, according to a First Energy news release.

"Retrofitting the Burger Plant for biomass will expand our diverse generation portfolio even further and continue our support of state and federal efforts to increase reliance on renewable energy sources," says FirstEnergy President and CEO Anthony J. Alexander.

"This project will help jump-start the biomass renewable energy industry here in Ohio and also serve as a model for projects throughout the U.S.," remarks Ohio governor Ted Strickland.

Scrap wood is not necessarily being considered as feedstock at the plant. Ultimately, the company expects the project to feature a closed-loop system using biomass derived from a crop grown specifically for use as a fuel source.

The capital cost for retrofitting the Burger Plant to burn biomass is estimated to be $200 million.

Kurtz Bros. is appealing to contractors and haulers involved in LEED projects, affixing the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) logo to some of its materials and noting on one flier that "USGBC-LEED documentation can be obtained" at its plant.

The company has used its mixed C&D system to produce a variety of products. As of the spring of 2009, according to the company’s Dave DeVito, it was specifically attempting to capture as much clean wood as possible as it ramped up for its mulch production season in a climate of what some were calling a wood shortage.

URBAN FORESTRY

Paper recyclers have long referred to their market sector as the "urban forest," but budding investments in alternative energy may broaden or redefine the term.

A recent analysis by Brad Franchi of consulting firm Forest Strategies LLC, based in South Carolina, observes that curtailed lumber production has kept pulpwood in tighter than usual supply. As sawmill production has lagged because of the housing slump, paper mills are competing for the remaining pulp wood.

Additionally, though, Franchi writes, "A relatively new demand . . . is the continued increase in utilization of small pulpwood furnish used in the ever-growing biomass [sector]."

Fortunately for mixed C&D recyclers, existing boiler fuel and landscaping mulch markets mean many mixed C&D equipment makers have long tailored their systems to concentrate on separating a clean stream of wood that next heads to a shredder or grinder for uniform sizing.

Lubo USA, Stamford, Conn., at its Web site www.lubousa.com, offers a description of how wood is separated from other materials:

"The Lubo starscreens, specifically modified for C&D material, play a key role in these systems. Material is sized to present only clean, large items on the overs sort line, immensely decreasing the hand sorting that still needs to be done. The unders line can screen out a product as fine as sand and have the balance cleaned up with an air system and after that, the Lubo Water-Bath Separator separates the unders material into stones and light residue fraction."

Similarly, Erin Recycling of Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, has provided an upgraded two-stream mixed C&D recycling system to Miami-based Florida Wood Recycling to help that company harvest additional scrap wood beyond its traditional land-clearing debris and landscaping trimmings streams.

And making boiler fuel from scrap wood was also one of the motivating reasons for Kim Williams and Marpan Recycling of Tallahassee, Fla., to purchase a system from Sherbrooke OEM.

Like the Midwest, the timber-rich Southeast has seen new mixed C&D systems put in place by companies such as Broad Run Recycling of Manassas, Va., and S.B. Cox Demolition Contractors of Richmond, Va.

DRYWALL DIVERSION

In Las Vegas, Evergreen Recycling (see "The Green Standard," July/August 2008 Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine, available at www.cdrecycler.com) has installed a Lubo USA system to sort an incoming mixed debris stream—one that is often LEED-motivated.

Speaking at a session at the 2009 C&D World event, the company’s Rob Dorinson titled his presentation "It’s All About Diversion." He noted that LEED was among the drivers bringing material into his facility, but end markets for gypsum had proven challenging because of a lack of nearby agricultural markets (thus little demand for soil amendments).

Similarly, gypsum mines were within range to supply raw materials to regional wallboard plants. Nonetheless, Dorinson used a "green" marketing angle to appeal to one wallboard manufacturing company, convincing it to give Evergreen a chance to produce an acceptable recycled-content gypsum product.

Taylor Recycling Facility LLC, Montgomery, N.Y., operates a high-volume plant that successfully diverts and recycles 95 percent of what it takes in, according to the company’s Web site.

The company, whose President Jim Taylor is currently president of the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), helped design what it calls "one of the world’s first wallboard recycling plants."

Early this decade, the company arranged to supply U.S. Gypsum with material that was re-processed from scrap wallboard at its Montgomery plant.

A system involving size-reduction equipment, paper separation equipment and an air suction system to control dust was fine-tuned to produce material that was of an acceptable cleanliness for U.S. Gypsum.

In several ways and across several types of materials, a continued devotion to green building standards by architects, engineers, developers and building owners may help mixed C&D recycling become standard operating procedure for an increasing number of contractors and haulers throughout North America.

The author is editor-in-chief of Recycling Today magazine and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net. This article first ran in the May/June 2009 issue of Recycling Today’s sister publication Construction & Demolition Recycling.