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The nation's largest concrete and asphalt recyclers continue their active crushing schedules despite modest economic growth

Brian Taylor July 22, 2013

Although the U.S. economy has been far from booming the past three years, many of the na- tion’s largest concrete and asphalt recyclers are slowly returning to prerecession levels of activ- ity. This in part can be considered testimony on the extent to which concrete and asphalt recycling has become standard practice in the demolition, construction and road building sectors.

After construction sector activity slammed on the brakes in 2008 and 2009, many crusher operators reported declining production figures for the 2009 or 2011 versions of Construction & Demolition Recycling’s (C&DR’s) list of the 20 Largest Recycled Aggregates Producers.

Companies who reported their 2012 figures for the 2013 version of the list have largely reported gains in tonnage volumes, with a few others holding steady.

The figures seem to indicate that while an impressive spike in construction and concrete recycling activity has yet to take place since the economic downturn, the incremental growth has at least made minor contributions toward better business conditions.


Avoiding The Worst
The downward construction industry spiral caused severe hardship for contractors and subcontractors throughout the building industry.

When the Obama Administration and Congress crafted the American Restoration and Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, one of the goals was to put federal dollars into “shovel-ready” construction projects, including highway and bridge paving and repair work.

The ARRA was panned by some critics for spreading dollars into line items far removed from such projects, but the fraction of funding that went into highway and bridge work helped spur crushing activity in some regions.

By the time concrete and asphalt recycling companies reported their 2010 tonnage figures to C&DR magazine for its 2011 list, some reported figures that were lower than those they gave for 2008 and 2006 while others found opportunities that resulted in company growth.

In 2012, U.S. Census Bureau construction activity information gathered by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), pointed to an ongoing slow rebound in construction activity.

Construction spending in December 2012 increased for the ninth month in a row, according to a February 2013 AGC news release, which also indicated that construction sector employment was rebounding.

Construction put in place totaled $885 billion in December 2012, the most since September 2009 and an increase of 7.8 percent compared with December 2011. The growth is spread among several major construction sectors, with both residential and nonresidential construction gaining momentum for the month and year. Growth in the residential sector may be particularly encouraging after a long period of dormancy.

Private residential construction spending jumped 24 percent year-over-year from December 2011 to December 2012. Private nonresidential spending grew 7.6 percent during that same timeframe.

Unfortunately, as state and local governments struggle to balance budgets, spending in that sector has dried up. Public construction spending fell 17 percent in December 2012 compared to 12 months earlier.

The private sector’s willingness to spend, however, more than offset the bad news from the government side of the ledger. “The new employment data show the industry has added almost 300,000 jobs in the past two years, including nearly 100,000 since September [2012],” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, in early 2013.

Construction firms employed 5.731 million people in January 2013, a gain of 28,000 from December 2012 and an increase of 102,000 (or 1.8 percent) from one year earlier.

According to AGC, building and trade contractors focused on residential construction added 14,500 jobs in January 2013 and 53,200 (2.6 percent) over the 12-month span covering most of 2012.

Nonresidential construction employment—building, specialty trade and heavy and civil engineering firms—expanded by 13,700 jobs in January 2013 and 48,900 (1.4 percent) from its year-ago level.

Stay in Touch

Every two years as Construction & Demolition Recycling compiles its list of the 20 Largest Recycled Aggregates Producers, we’re aware of several companies that potentially belong on the list but for whom we don’t have an actual or estimated tonnage figure.

If you own, work for or know of a company that you suspect should be on this list but was not contacted (or did not respond), please let us know and we will make sure to let our readers know. Brian Taylor can be contacted via e-mail at btaylor@gie.net or reached by phone at (330) 523-5324(330) 523-5324.

Better Numbers
The mild but sustained improvement in construction activity was clearly reflected in the 2012 tonnage figures provided by recycled aggregates producers.

Companies who reported their recycled aggregates tonnage figures for both 2010 and 2012 experienced an average increase of more than 20 percent.

Larger firms closer to the top of the list experienced some of the strongest growth, including Ohio’s Independence Recycling with a 12.9 percent gain and Houston-based Cherry Crushed Concrete with an impressive 58 percent gain.

California’s economy, the largest among the 50 states, has suffered from both the housing bust and a state budget struggles. Ideally, the tonnage figures reported by two Southern California companies on the list—RAMCO of Ventura County and Dan Copp Crushing Corp. of Orange County—point to a long-anticipated rebound.

RAMCO enjoyed 21 percent growth in tonnage in its 2012 volume compared to 2010 while Dan Copp Crushing’s annual figure increased 4.6 percent.

As of mid-2013, construction activity in California varied by metropolitan region, with metro areas such as Napa and Hanford-Corcoran adding jobs while the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario region shed 3,100 construction jobs in May 2013 for a 5 percent decline in sector employment.

In Texas, fast-growing Cherry Crushed Concrete purchased a property formerly owned by K.C. Crushed Concrete in the first half of 2013 and converted it into Cherry’s fifth concrete recycling center.

When the company made the announcement, it said the additional plant meant it would be able to process between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of recycled aggregates daily in the Houston area.

As reported in the May-June 2013 edition of C&DR (“Awaiting Breakout,” starting on page 28), recycled aggregates producers are experiencing mixed results so far in 2013.

Jim Dykes of Dykes Paving in Georgia said, “There are not enough new projects being started and not enough old structures being torn down,” thus keeping his company’s crushing volumes in check.

“We anticipate a modest increase in 2013,” was the message from Leonard Cherry of Houston-based Cherry Crushed Concrete.


The More The Merrier
C&DR magazine compiles this list every two years, and we continue to encourage responses from companies that crush 250,000 tons or more annually of concrete, asphalt, brick and block.

We’d like to honor the companies that belong on this list, and we’d also like to hear about major highway or demolition/construction projects that have helped a company work its way onto the list.

For purposes of this list, figures for asphalt that is recycled by specialized in situ paving machinery are not included. Asphalt crushed at fixed plants and portable job site units are included, however.

Surveying the various industry segments that end up buying and operating crushing plants and then determining which are the largest and most active in their fields provides a challenge when it comes to collecting data for the list.

As well, companies have very different policies concerning the disclosure of their business activities when we do find them and contact them. Some are reluctant to provide information, and in some cases this probably led to their omission from the list.

Thankfully, many companies who have become familiar with the process understand that our intention in putting together the list is to recognize the most successful operators in this recycling segment. It takes hard work by a lot of people to put together winning bids, set up crushing plants, and produce marketable recycled aggregate products, and our hope is that a place on this list provides recognition for the employees of listed companies.

The practice of crushing and recycling concrete, asphalt, brick and block has become a vital part of the demolition, construction and road building processes.

Several factors—including more distant quarries, higher fuel costs and legislative bans on disposal—have helped build the market for recycled concrete and asphalt.

The construction sector economic trough of the past few years has created a competitive bidding atmosphere and a difficult search for tonnage for many crushing plant operators.

As our list seems to show, however, many of our readers continue to find opportunities to turn end-of-life concrete and asphalt into desirable aggregate products. C&DR


Estimates are derived from a combination of company websites, media reports and extrapolating average industry-wide two-year growth figures

 

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The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.

 

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