America and its elected leaders seem to be having a very difficult time deciding whether the repair, bolstering and upgrading of America’s infrastructure is among its highest priorities.
America’s history is rife with political disagreement, and those who have the privilege of living in countries with freely elected governments really wouldn’t want it any other way.
For much of the post-World War II era, however, both major political parties have had valid reasons to support transportation and public health (water and sewer) infrastructure spending to please several important constituencies, including the business community, labor unions and all voters who drive a car or expect clean water when they turn on the tap. (Not to mention every voter who buys food or goods brought by truck from outside regions—which is pretty much every single voter.)
When Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine was founded in 1999, federal transportation spending bills were the subject of debate, but after a few years of actual budget surpluses, the idea that spending could still be considerable was a given.
Now, whether one wishes to point to entitlement programs, post-9/11 military obligations, bank bailouts, tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits or any other combination of factors, federal infrastructure spending bills work their way through a narrower political corridor.
Currently, the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives are proposing and counter-proposing federal transportation bills that range from $109 billion over two years to $476 billion over six years.
Not only are the amounts different but (as is usually the case when Democrats and Republicans preside over a divided government) so are several of the priorities, such as amounts allocated to mass transit.
For the road building and construction industries and their suppliers, it has become a rite of passage to endure what the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) refers to as “partisan gridlock in Washington” in a March 2012 news release.
“Construction firms fear two things: declining demand and market uncertainty,” says AGC CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. “Each month that Congress puts off providing long-term funding for needed infrastructure projects [taxpayers] pay now in congested and deteriorated roads, and they’ll pay more when materials are finally purchased. Congress should get a bill to the President without further short-term extensions, and he should sign it.”
Perhaps just as frustrating, contractors know all too well that even after a project receives the green light on funding, there are several steps and stages yet to occur before any lane miles of highway are paved (or removed and recycled, to more precisely address our readers).
Here’s hoping that despite disagreements and tight budgets, the infrastructure projects nearest you that protect lives, jobs and business opportunities will at least receive their funding in 2012.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt of remarks given by Bob Brickner, executive vice-president, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), to the Environmental Business Council of New England in January 2012.
As our industry moves into 2012, I wish to note that those on the outside of our industry have a myriad of views of what we actually do on a day-to-day basis. Some are correct, some are close, and some [if I can use a new American term], are just “Tebowing” it.
As you may know, Tebowing is a new verb and means to get down on one knee and start praying. Over the years I have had contractors say to me, “I am just praying that it works!” So it makes for an appropriate analogy.
I have been involved in the solid waste field since early 1972—for 40 years, and I feel it. Usually GBB (Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc.) represents the public sector in putting business deals together, like collection service RFPs and negotiating contracts; we also write RFPs for the design and construction of turnkey or full-service C&D processing facilities. I have also been involved in implementing large scale waste-to-energy plants, up to 2,000 tons per day, and many traditional materials recycling facilities (commonly called MRFs) around the country. I have also completed consulting work for the National Demolition Association (NDA) and the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA).
When the MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) passed the first C&D material landfill bans in 2006 on asphalt paving, brick, concrete, metal and wood, your lives and businesses were forever changed. For some, your fortunes or misfortunes have never been the same.
As I have moved within solid waste circles for the past four decades, I have noticed one simple fact: Things get done for one of three reasons—need, fear or greed. You might hear, “I need to do this!” You might hear, “If I don’t do this, then this is going to happen!” Or, you might overhear in the board room, “If we can do this, we can make a lot of money.”
I was one of the three founders of GBB in 1980. Thus, over 30 years ago we started offering solid waste consulting services—with no business in hand. At the end of the first week, we nailed our first client.
Ten years into our business activities, a friend of mine from a large international consulting firm called and asked if GBB would like to team with them to propose on a project to perform a C&D recycling feasibility study. At that time, GBB had completed numerous solid waste and recycling studies, including several for traditional source-separated multi-material recycling plans, but we had never done a recycling study on C&D materials.
As any small, budding entrepreneur would decide under those circumstances, if we can figure out a plan for mixed solid waste materials, we can certainly handle a C&D study as well. So our new and ongoing adventure into the world of C&D materials processing and marketing began, with our first C&D recycling plan report, 20 years ago. Oh yes, and the location of the project was Hong Kong.
After competing with consultants from all over the world, our team was selected and I flew off to Hong Kong, and the Junk Bay landfill was my luxury vacation outpost for part of 1991. Soon after that industry-opening experience with that initial engagement, GBB sponsored the first two national C&D conferences in 1993 and 1994 (this was all pre-CMRA).
In the early 1990s, the processing of mixed C&D waste was in its infancy. While inerts like concrete and rock where crushed and screened, the true opportunities for mixed C&D processing and materials recovery were very limited.
A few European suppliers were popping up like Lindeman, Hazemag and Bezner, while a few additional crushing and screening firms with U.S. roots were migrating into C&D processing from other industries.
GBB had about 100 to 125 attendees show up at each of our 1.5 day C&D conferences in Philadelphia in 1993 and 1994, with the highlight being a field tour of the Haines and Kibblehouse new Hazemag mixed C&D waste processing facility near the Philadelphia Airport, and then a tour of the Winzinger concrete crushing system and wood grinding operations in South Jersey.
Things were very simple then, but the risk-taking entrepreneurs and the state regulators were just a few steps behind. These two companies, along with Star Recycling in Brooklyn and Jet-Away in Boston, were early adopters, so-to-speak, and the race was on.
Around that same time, I was trying to put the C&D recycling industry into an easy-to-identify metaphor to a group of non-C&D industry folks. Since they were outsiders and knew nothing, I told them that C&D really stood for “calamity and despair.” We all laughed, but I realized a little later I did not actually feel that way.
Changing calamity into a challenge and despair into an opportunity, though, has involved moving dollars and environmental stewardship to center stage.
As the C&D processing and materials recovery industry has grown, so has our roster of allies. While not the panacea for extensive materials marketing, the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) occurred in 1993 and the ?rst Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) pilot project program was launched in August 1998.
As of November 2011, just 13 years later, there are 32,000 LEED-registered commercial projects with an estimated 11,000 LEED commercial projects having been certified. This USGBC effort has done a lot to raise awareness of the C&D materials recovery marketplace.
The industry has grown from a few “admitted C&D recyclers” in the 1990s to several hundred today. GBB estimates that more than 150 mechanical C&D processing plants are operating in the United States today. I am sure that others exist, and still others are undertaking C&D materials recovery without an automated plant. Fortunately, our industry has a good base of competitive companies operating C&D recycling equipment and a full-system supply chain, with many of those suppliers headquartered in Canada.
A relatively small area like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with about a dozen C&D materials processing plants, is an anomaly in the country. However, while you are a shining example of states’ rights, at times, as you know, the federal government and other states’ rights can interfere with the dream.
However, over my 20-plus years of both participating in and observing this fledging industry, I have seen the growth and enthusiasm rise and fall several times, and the roller coaster ride will without a doubt continue. There is a simple quotation from founding father Thomas Paine’s “The Crisis” that goes as follows: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
As the industry has advanced from the old-style manual floor-sorting of cardboard, metals and wood to a higher level of recovery, various mechanical screens and sorting systems—including air and water density separators, eddy current separators and plastics recovery through optical sorting—have been developed and installed.
The vast majority of C&D facility recyclers are not landfill disposal owner/operators. Our aversion to paying landfill disposal costs provides the impetus and “great equalizer” for advancing materials reuse and market-driven creativity.
However, as I noted earlier, the regulatory regime and constant concerns about product quality, contamination levels and the nature of toxic materials that might have been used in the origin materials and manufacturing processes, are the natural obstacles that need to be evaluated by the industry in a fully transparent manner.
Mining for Ore
When I first started getting involved with the C&D recycling sector in the early 1990s, the largest waste haulers were nowhere in sight. They tended to merely “hang out” around their landfills. About two months ago at a C&D conference, a spokesperson from Waste Management indicated that the company now has 15 C&D recycling plants that they own around the country.
Republic, mainly through its Allied Waste acquisition, now has a few as well. Waste Management in particular has made a significant market penetration in the past five years. As we know, the color of their trucks is usually green, so naturally, I took his current facility number as a positive sign for our industry.
Each of your C&D plants is like an independent island nation, but each of you, and your allies, must cooperate in some measure to be successful in the long run. We would not have won World War II without the full commitment and perseverance of all of our great allies at that time.
Having forums like this Environmental Business Council of New Engalnd annual summit, having two dedicated C&D magazines, two annual national C&D conferences, and two pointed industry associations like the CMRA and the NDA allows us to share both frustrations and triumphs, and they are critical to your business success.
Your active participation in all these available resources, especially those specific to your region, cannot be overstressed in this ever-changing world, where decisions in Boston and Concord, N.H., Washington D.C. or even China all impact your corporate results. For example, the recent rejection of the Keystone pipeline, which involves the building of some 1,700 miles of steel pipeline, short circuits a major opportunity for the potential marketing of recovered metal and scrap from both demolition projects and our C&D plants.
When I add up all of the C&D materials that are generated in the United States, I come to almost 350 million tons per year. While this is split many ways, with crushed concrete and asphalt pavement near 100 million tons per year, and the total waste generation of gypsum drywall and asphalt shingles (each around 10 million tons), the 150 million tons of mixed C&D waste, and each of the segregated waste constituents, provide significant challenges and opportunities to our industry, and each day, we continue to grow and learn how to address our unique business needs.
The hot new TV series of last year and this year was called “Gold Rush” and is set in the wilderness of Alaska. The viewing audience is able to witness the many pitfalls of mining gold in the Klondike.
Each of us in this room has our own daily “Urban Ore Rush.” We may not be trying to extract gold from the ground, but by being C&D processors and recyclers, we attempt to mine that which is delivered to us on a daily basis.
When you open your facility gates each morning, you announce to the world that you are ready to take on the challenges of an essential industry niche, and ready to perform a great and needed environmental service for our country.
The author is executive vice-president of Fairfax, Va.-based solid waste consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB) and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Green home building is fast becoming mainstream practice across all building types, styles and price points. That evolution of the housing industry was on display at the 2011 International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla., held in October 2011, where two distinctly different homes showcased the highest standards of energy and resource efficiency. But one aspect of both homes that was overshadowed in their respective presentations is the important role of construction waste management.
Valued by green building programs, the proper planning, purchasing and application of building materials—and what’s done with the resulting waste—is critical to a comprehensive approach to sustainable construction. Waste Management Inc. (WM), Houston, helped achieve high levels of diversion of construction materials for these two show homes.
The Builder Concept Home 2011 is a net-zero energy, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum suburban house in Windermere, Fla. Behind its beautiful finishes and convenient, functional spaces is a commitment by builder KB Home to reduce and recycle a high percentage of its construction waste and divert it away from landfills.
|The Builder Concept Home 2011 is a LEED Platinum suburban house in Windermere, Fla. It is a net-zero energy home, meaning it is intended to produce more energy than it consumes over the span of a year.|
“That’s actually a big deal if you are getting into the environmentally friendly, sustainable piece [of construction],” says George Glance, president, KB Home Central Florida Division. He admits it is not always easy to recycle construction debris because builders need to find outlets for all the materials they would otherwise landfill. This includes materials like drywall, concrete and wood. But nonetheless, KB Homes was able to divert nearly 90 percent of the waste it generated on the project from the landfill.
Jim Halter, vice president of construction solutions, WM, says the work that WM did on the project was not unlike many projects it has undertaken with custom builders. “The unique thing was that it did have some very specific things that they needed as far as it had space restrictions and also the desire to have a very high percentage of recyclables,” explains Halter, “So it was really interesting working, sitting down with them and understanding the concept of the project and integrating our solutions into that.”
The results of that collaboration were impressive. Working together, KB Home and WM diverted nearly 90 percent of construction waste — from concrete to drywall to wood and other materials — away from local landfills and into various recycling markets.
“The results at KB that we had for waste diversion for construction debris was 89 percent, which was quite outstanding,” says Halter. He attributes the high recycling rate to KB Homes and the way it managed the project and the way it was able to communicate with WM on what its needs were.
“We were very fortunate that we have a facility here that we were able to take the materials into. We were able to segregate those materials,” Halter adds. “I think the great thing for KB Homes is that they were able to commingle.”
By commingle, Halter means KB Homes put all of its construction debris into a single container. WM could then take it to an offsite location, source separate it and ensure that it would get to the appropriate place to be diverted and recycled.
Also built in conjunction with the 2011 Builders Show, The New American Home is touted as a model of resource efficiency—including a commitment to C&D waste management that dates back to before construction began. In fact, two older homes that used to occupy the home’s half-acre lot were sustainably deconstructed to clear the parcel.
Working with a deconstruction specialist to carefully remove products and materials that could be salvaged and/or recycled, WM helped divert 400 tons of material, or about 70 percent of the two homes, away from local landfills.
Then, once construction began, WM worked with the builder, Continental Homes and Interiors, to continue the commitment. The project achieved an 83 percent diversion of the construction debris collected at the site.
The drywall scrap from both projects was recycled for use in a mushroom farm for agricultural soil amendment.
“It’s stories like that [which] we really get excited about,” Halter says of being able to find a home for the drywall.
Staying on Track
Being able to track the amount of material being recycled from a job site is an important part of making sure a project is meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirements for certification. Waste Management (WM), Houston, has launched the Diversion and Recycling Tracking tool (DART) to help project planners, contractors, architects and building owners measure their green performance during a construction, renovation, and demolition project.
The service, which is available across the U.S. and Canada, operates online and is accessible 24 hours per day to monitor C&D recycling, tabulate total diversion rates and provide documentation to support LEED certification.
WM says DART technology is designed to:
“Success is only meaningful if it can be measured,” says Jim Halter, vice president of construction solutions for Waste Management. “With the DART tool, contractors and architects can really zero in on what they are diverting and where there is opportunity to improve. We are not just tracking performance for the present, but also setting benchmarks to be surpassed in the future.”
Other features of the DART tool include:
A Common Goal
As impressive as those numbers are for both show home projects, non-recyclers often ask: Where do all those resources go if not to the landfill?
“We are able to take each individual component of the C&D debris and separate it out. In some places we do a manual separation. In others, we have technology that separates,” Halter explains in the WM video clip.
WM says it has learned that, whether it be achieving a green building certification, staying on-time and on-budget, or trying to gain a competitive advantage in today’s tough housing market, builders like KB Home and Continental value a partner that understands their business.
“I think you have to look at your total building systems and your take offs and make sure you have value engineering designed into your home so you can make room for what is important to consumers,” Glance says.
Halter says one of the biggest misconceptions contractors and builders have about sustainable waste management and trying to achieve diversion goals are questions as to how it will impact their productivity (in a negative fashion) and notions as to how it will affect costs and schedules.
“That is why we think it is very important to get us involved early on in the planning process so we can help minimize any impacts to schedule,” Halter says.
Halter adds WM tries to have a commingled process whenever possible because it is easier for the contractors to be able to tell workers to throw everything into one container and “WM will take care of it for you.”
That understanding comes from an internal commitment to sustainability at WM that the company says pervades the entire operation.
Halter says WM’s business and mission is in protecting the environment, which includes the communities the company serves as well as its employees. He also says that mission is why the company has an aggressive sustainability campaign. “It is ingrained as part of the fabric of our company,” Halter explains.
More information about residential building solutions from WM is available at www.wm.com, where visitors can search for local services by ZIP code.
Further details about the The Builder Concept Home 2011, including the ability to take a comprehensive and photo-realistic virtual tour, is available at www.builderconcepthome2011.com.
Recognizing Sustainable Construction
With construction customers across North America, Waste Management Inc. (WM), Houston, is honoring 10 companies with its inaugural Sustainability Circle of Excellence Award. This recognition, highlighting sustainable performances within the construction industry, looks to celebrate the builders who achieved important sustainability milestones in 2011, as determined by WM’s online Diversion and Recycling Tracking Tool (DART). The winning companies diverted the highest total tonnage from a landfill to a recycling facility in the year 2011 (starting when DART was launched). Those companies include:
The article was adapted from a video produced by Houston-based Waste Management Inc.
To watch the video this article was adapted from, visit CDRecycler.com/wm-construction-solutions-case-study-video.aspx.
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In January 2012, highway and street construction in the U.S. increased 4.5% compared to January 2011, but other transportation spending (transit, ports, airports and passenger rail) declined 10% compared to one year ago, according to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).
2012 International Biomass Conference & Expo,
(701) 746-8385 or www.biomassconference.com
ISRI Annual Convention & Exhibition,
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc.,
26th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference 2012,
April 30-May 3
Penton Business Media,
www.WasteExpo.com or (800) 927-5007
Messe München International,
+49 89 9 49 20246, www.ifat-china.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Solid Waste & Recycling Conference and Trade Show,
Bolton Landing, N.Y.,
The Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations,
(518) 783-2827 or www.nyfederation.org
NRRA’s 31st Annual Recycling Conference & Expo,
Northeast Resource Recovery Association,
(800) 223-0150 or www.nrra.net
ISRI Gulf Coast Summer Convention & Exposition,
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., Gulf Coast Chapter,