One of my favorite movie trilogies from the 1980s is “Back to the Future,” which presented what at the time seemed like some pretty far-fetched ideas of what the year 2015 might look like. Time traveling DeLoreans and hoverboards aside, we have come a long way with technology since those movies first came out, not just as a society, but as an industry.
Robots, remote controls and GPS technology have revolutionized the way we perform many tasks, and manufacturers have found ways to make the jobs of demolition contractors and C&D recyclers more precise, safer and less labor intensive.
The article “No room for error,” which appeared in the January/February 2014 issue, explained how True-Line Coring and Cutting of Tampa used a remote-controlled demolition tool outfitted with a breaker to demolish three 150-foot silos and a 180-foot grain elevator at the Port of Tampa.
In this issue you will read about a grinding operation controlled by a remote that helped create efficiencies during a military housing demolition project in Missouri (See “Feeding frenzy” on p. 42).
You also will read about how robots, developed by ZenRobotics, are sorting wood and other materials from C&D debris in Finland in the article “A new frontier” on p. 24. Technologies like the ZenRobotics Recycler and other advanced sorting equipment are increasing the accuracy and amount of recyclables being captured from the mixed C&D stream, which leads to more end-product value.
And even GPS when used in certain applications like excavation can help improve the precision and speed with which an operator can dig by providing accurate data on the area being worked. “GPS guidance systems can have tolerances as small as two to three centimeters making them extremely accurate compared to relying on the operator’s skill level,” a Wikipedia entry on “GPS in the Earthmoving Industry” states.
Quality and efficiency improvements aren’t the only benefits of these technological advancements. They also reduce the risks. If an operator knows with certainty what is in the ground he is digging or can safely operate a breaker from several yards away, the less likely he is to develop an injury. Similarly, if robots can pick heavy debris off of a conveyor, then employees are saved from the strain it puts on their bodies.
The preceding examples are really just the tip of the iceberg. And manufacturers will continue to develop these technologies and incorporate them in their equipment. I wish I had the ability to take Doc’s Delorean into the future to see what innovations will be used in the demolition and C&D recycling fields 30 years from now.
Teamwork is an important aspect of any demolition and construction project, but when that project involves a major transportation artery to the downtown of a major city, cooperating with stakeholders and collaborating as a team is critical.
When Trumbull-Great Lakes-Ruhlin (TGR), was awarded the contract to demolish the Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland and build a replacement eastbound bridge, the company understood it would need to work closely with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), railroads, city agencies and businesses to keep the project on schedule without causing major disruption to those living and working around the site. So far, with more than half of the bridge demolition complete, the firm’s ability to keep communication channels open has paid off.
Jason Tucker, TGR construction project manager, explains, “On a project of this size, you have to have constant communication.”
To make interaction easier, TGR and ODOT operate out of the same office near the area where the work is being performed. Also sharing the office building are the design firm, URS Corp., and quality control firm, Parsons Brinkerhoff.
“The fact that we are colocated makes it very convenient to talk about things when a problem comes up rather than having to call someone, leave a message and wait for them to call back,” says Tucker. “The big thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is there are a lot of people knocking on my door, but my cell phone never rings.” He adds the lack of phone calls and emails are “such a change from how work has been the last 15 years.”
Jason Wise, Innerbelt Bridge Design project manager for ODOT says of the cooperation, “We get compliments all the time from outsiders. We have a good rapport all the way around from all parties involved.”
Tucker says ODOT has done a good job of keeping decision-makers on hand in the building. “That is what keeps the project moving,” says Tucker. “On a tight schedule like this, if there’s a change to something we are doing, if it is going to take two weeks to get an answer, you will never make that up. We have lots of meetings, but they are all worthwhile because it keeps everyone in the know about what is going on. There are no surprises.”
The tight schedule includes allotting six months to remove the entire concrete bridge deck and several spans of structural steel that make up the Innerbelt Bridge. Demolition of the 5,078-foot bridge is expected to be complete by the end of summer so that construction of the new bridge can begin in August 2014. The new bridge, the eastbound span of the George V. Voinovich Bridge is expected to open by the end of 2016. The new westbound bridge was completed in 2013 by another firm and is currently carrying traffic in both directions, amounting to 140,000 motorists each day.
“Basically as soon as demolition clears an area, crews will go in and start pile driving for the new bridge piers,” says Karen Lenehan, TGR public information consultant.
Tucker describes the project’s timetable as “aggressive but doable.”
TGR is a joint venture between the Ohio-based companies The Great Lakes Construction Co. and Ruhlin Co. with Pittsburgh-based Trumbull Corp.
“All three companies have a history of lots of different projects from demolition and construction,” says Tucker. “We took the best practices of all three companies and put them into one. We all have the same approach to the project. It is a good mesh.”
Piece by piece
The demolition of what also is known as the Pratt Deck Truss Bridge began in January 2014 and is a combination of traditional and controlled demolition.
The TGR team proposed a mix of both traditional methods and controlled demolition when bidding the design-build project. According to Lenehan, this approach maintains the security of sensitive areas while expediting demolition of other areas. She says, “While it may seem counterintuitive, the controlled demolition process is actually safer than cutting the steel and lowering it manually—a tricky task for the workers and equipment involved.”
Pittsburgh-based demolition firm Joseph B. Fay Co. spent much of the winter working on the concrete deck removal. With one of the snowiest and coldest winters on record, crews had to incorporate snow and ice control into their demolition activities.
The bridge is made up of a series of trusses, many of which had to be hand cut by workers in man lifts and lowered to the ground piece by piece using cranes. Workers wear protective suits to guard against lead exposure from the bridge’s lead-based paint. Lenehan notes the suits are just a protective measure as the risk of lead exposure is relatively low because the bridge has been repainted with nonlead-based paint.
The truss span over the Cuyahoga River and three other sections of the bridge involved hand cutting. The river closed to marine traffic while demolition crews placed equipment on barges and dropped steel into the river.
Lenehan says, “Coordination of the many entities which use the river has been another challenge.” Permits and plan approval were needed from the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. Cooperation also was developed between the Lake Carriers Association and industries downstream from the bridge, including a large steel mill that receives materials from river barges.
“Over three days, half of the span over the river was actually dropped into the river,” says Wise. “That took some coordination with the coast guard and Army Corps of Engineers to shut down the river.”
To ensure all of the bridge debris was recovered, crews tied cable with buoys and numbered every piece of scrap metal it lowered into the river—28 pieces in all. Before the river reopened, the Corps used sonar to make sure no debris was left behind. Demolition over the river was completed June 4, 2014.
Areas of the bridge that go over Norfolk Southern and CSX railroad tracks and the city’s rail transit system also involved preapprovals before demolition could occur.
Tucker says everyone has been cooperative thus far. “I don’t know if it is because it is a high-profile project, but every entity puts their best people forward and people are more responsive to keeping things moving along.” He adds of the coast guard, “They’ve played a key role in the demolition and have done an excellent job.
“Recognition must also be given to the Joseph B. Fay Co. for performing the demolition work extremely safely,” Tucker adds. “They are working with large cranes, heavy lifts and high heights on a daily and nightly basis. All this while making up time lost during the harsh winter and adjusting the demolition sequence to coordinate with river, rail and road traffic.”
The controlled demolition will drop the remainder of the truss sections to the ground where they will be cut into smaller pieces for recycling. Controlled Demolition Inc. (CDI), Phoenix, Maryland, has been contracted to perform the work, which is expected to take place in mid-July. As of mid-June, the details were still being finalized.
Kirk Gegick, ODOT Innerbelt project engineer, says “We’ve gotten some spans down, the critical spans that had to be done prior to the controlled demolition, including the span over the river and the span over Norfolk Southern railroad, so things are progressing right now as we had planned.”
Preparation for the controlled demolition will involve closing roads, including the first new bridge making up the George V. Voinovich Bridge. The city, law enforcement and the fire department will be involved in the coordination. A 1,000-foot perimeter will be placed around the project to keep people out.
The actual explosions will take a matter of seconds to detonate and are expected to drop the remainder of the bridge trusses. Once the controlled demolition is complete, CDI will examine the surrounding area to ensure all the explosions went off and nearby structures are safe before reopening the area.
“It is complicated, but we have a very good team working on it,” Gegick says.
TGR has committed to 100 percent recycling in several categories on the project, according to Lenehan, including steel reinforcing bars, structural steel, structural concrete, concrete pavement and cleared vegetation.
She estimates 19,775 tons of steel and 32,500 cubic yards of concrete will be recycled during the demolition. About 95,000 cubic yards of soil is expected to be reclaimed overall from the demolition and new bridge construction. An artist has even used reclaimed wood from the project to create a sculpture (www.facebook.com/olgaziemskastudio).
“We are recycling almost everything on that structure,” says Gegick “It is a big cost savings to our department to have all of that scrap be used by our contractor. It obviously lowered their bid price going into the job, knowing they could recycle those materials.”
Just the beggining
The project team is using the Federal Highway Administration Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) to gauge the project’s environmental impact. Jocelynn Clemings, ODOT public information officer says the team hopes to reach Platinum status —the highest level achievable. The westbound bridge was awarded Gold status.
From ODOT’s perspective, the replacement of the 1959 Innerbelt Bridge is “just the beginning” of the major plans that are in store for the area’s transportation system, says Clemings. Replacement of the bridge represents the first two contracts in a series of seven to rebuild the entire Innerbelt Corridor throughout downtown Cleveland. ODOT’s multibillion dollar Innerbelt Modernization Plan is focused on improving safety, reducing congestion and traffic delays and modernizing interstate travel.
“This investment by the state of Ohio will rehabilitate and reconstruct about 5 miles of interstate roadways and address operational, design, safety and access shortcomings that severely impact the ability of the Innerbelt Freeway system to meet the transportation needs of northeast Ohio,” she says.
Tom Hyland, ODOT construction project manager, says he feels lucky to be working with such top-notch people on the project. “We are getting the best of the best of all the organizations. They are bringing their best people to the table, the most innovative, most knowledgeable, fully committed to the job, and it is very rewarding to work with a crew like that.”
The author is managing editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at email@example.com.
A video report on the Innerbelt Bridge demolition is available at www.CDRecycler.com/innerbelt-bridge-demo-video-report.aspx. More photos of the Innerbelt Bridge demolition project are available at www.CDRecycler.com/innerbelt-bridge-demo-photos-2014.aspx.
For Kevin Reese, sustainability is not just a buzzword. He is dead serious about it, and so is David Cloutier, director of renovation and construction for Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC), Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
Reese, owner of Reese Equipment Co. LLC, Dixon, Missouri, is recycling and reusing 94 percent of the content and structure of 30 single-story houses that were formerly used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knobnoster, Missouri. Reese has a contract with BBC to strip the houses of all reusable content and to grind up any wood and drywall in the remaining structures. BBC delivers development, design, financing, construction, renovation, property and facilities management services in the multifamily, student and military housing sectors. The company currently has more than 44,000 residential units and $5.7 billion in real estate assets under management.
Little time to waste
Reese’s contract extends to 126 military housing units at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. “The first thing is that we take all the copper out,” says Reese. “Then we take off all of the siding, aluminum or not, and recycle it. All light fixtures come out and get resold. The refrigerators, dishwashers, furnaces and all of that gets taken out and resold. Sometimes we even resell the carpet if it is in good shape.”
Once the house is stripped of usable contents, Reese brings up his new 5710C horizontal grinder from Peterson Pacific Corp., Eugene, Oregon, and begins grinding up the wood and drywall that’s left in the shell. An excavator tears down the houses and feeds the material into the grinder. In turn, a conveyor on the grinder feeds the ground mulch into a walking floor trailer.
“Our walking floor trailer is a 100-cubic-yard trailer, and I can load it in 20 minutes,” says Reese. “With my old grinder it took 45 minutes to an hour to load the trailer. This new grinder is twice as fast as my old one. We never run the Peterson for a steady hour because we have the truck loaded. But it would probably grind 50 to 60 tons per hour of this house material. We’ve got 3-inch screens in it, which means the material comes out fine. You hardly see a piece any bigger than a quarter coming out of it.”
The resulting mulch is used as top cover to contain solid waste at the landfill. In a conventional landfill, dirt gets pushed over the solid waste every day to contain it. Ground-up house mulch saves the use of soil for cover at the landfill.
“The finer we keep the mulch, the more we can put on a trailer,” says Reese. “And that’s the whole idea: to cut down on the number of trips. One of these houses takes two walking floor trailer loads to haul one off. If you hauled it with an end-dump, you’d be looking at 20 loads to haul one off. We’re cutting down our travels by 90 percent, so that saves on fuel, greenhouse gas emissions and wear and tear on the roadways.
“Balfour Beatty Communities has aggressive targets in place as it relates to sustainability and demolition and construction practices,” continues Reese. “They track everything that is recycled from these houses. They’re focused on saving and reusing, on recycling and saving the environment. If it costs a little more to save, to help the environment, that’s what they do.”
Indeed, Cloutier and his staff at BBC expect to divert from the landfill 111 tons of common components and materials in the houses they demolish. “That includes furnaces, doors, air conditioning units, copper, aluminum, storm doors, water heaters, light fixtures, kitchen appliances, toilets, mirrors, electrical outlets, breaker boxes, shelving, laminate floors and more,” says Cloutier.
For larger and specialty materials such as concrete, asphalt, street signs and electrical transformers, BBC is diverting 3,738 tons from the landfill. “We are working with our partners to divert 2,700 tons of concrete and 1,000 tons of asphalt from the landfill and using it in the construction of a parking lot at a local pumpkin patch,” says Cloutier. “Additionally, the project will be donating 38 street lights to the city of Dixon, Missouri, and electrical transformers to the local public works department. Once the homes are ground to mulch, the 780 tons of materials will be used as daily cover at the local landfills.”
Cloutier is enthusiastic about the house-grinding operation. “By grinding the existing structures, the transportation of C&D waste is accomplished in just two walking floor trailers per duplex,” he says. “That’s fantastic. Typically you would need 20 5-ton dump trucks per duplex. With the landfill 5 miles away, the fuel savings and greenhouse gas reductions add up very quickly,” he adds.
Reese says while his truck travels to the landfill, unloads and returns, he is tearing down another house with the excavator. “We’re hauling about six loads per day,” he says. “In total it takes about an hour to grind up one house.”
At the heart of the operation is the workhorse, the 5710C horizontal grinder from Peterson Pacific. Reese says he particularly appreciates the remote control on the grinder. “With the remote, you can control every function on the machine except for starting the engine and turning on the mill itself. Everything else—all the belts on and off, the feed on and off, the conveyor flow, the track mobility —everything can be done with the remote control,” says Reese.
Reese also comments on the size of material the grinder will handle. Backed up by a 1,050-horsepower Caterpillar engine, the 60-inch by 55-inch in-feed opening on the grinder can grab and grind a 50-inch tree. Reese also will use the machine for grinding trees and brush in right-of-way clearing operations. For that application, the grinder is mounted on tracks and can follow an excavator around rough terrain. A magnetic head pulley at the end of the machine will recover ferrous materials including door hinges and screws in the houses.
Additionally, the machine has a complete dust suppression system, says Derek Izworski, regional sales manager for Peterson Pacific. “We spray water in front of the grinding chamber, into the grinding chamber, and onto the discharge belt,” says Izworski. “When you’re grinding up the brittle wood in old houses, it gets quite dusty, but our system knocks it down.”
With a side removal grate system, maintenance of the machine is easy. The grates pull out of the side of the machine; omitting the need to climb into the machine to remove the grates. It also has a patented Peterson impact cushion. The shock load of the wood going through the grinding chamber is a violent event, but one urethane block on each side of the chamber cushions all of those impacts, says Izworski. “It’s a no-maintenance shock absorber,” he says. “It cushions everything up on top there. None of our competitors have that.”
Working in green waste, the Peterson 5710C grinder can handle on the order of 120 tons per hour, according to Izworski. “It’s kind of like a cross-training shoe,” he notes. “You can do more than one thing with it. You can do the houses today, and yet go grind trees tomorrow with it. There are no changes required for that machine to go from houses to trees. The possibilities with that machine are endless.”
Leader of the pack
Reese Equipment has won an award as one of BBC’s sustainability leaders. “We encourage and receive input from our contractors and from our employees,” says Cloutier. “We’re always looking for input and creative solutions as to how we can improve our operations because when it comes to the demolition of existing houses, we’re all looking to safely reduce our impact on the landfills, community and the environment.
“When Reese introduced us to ‘green demolition’ by grinding the houses, we really took a look at it,” says Cloutier. “We asked, ‘Is it safe? Is it sustainable? Is it environmentally friendly?’ Once we discussed and verified the possibilities of grinding the houses, we realized the benefits. The days are gone when we would take down a house with a bulldozer, put it into a 5-ton dump truck and drive it down the street. We’re able to safely recycle or reuse just about everything on the project. This is a win-win for the entire community.”
Daniel Brown is the owner of TechniComm, a communications business based in the Chicago area specializing in construction and engineering topics.
Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is common flooring used in retail settings, and large retailers like Minneapolis-based Target and Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. have worked with flooring manufacturer Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to recycle their floors at locations across the United States.
Recently, Armstrong named Kroger as its 2013 Flooring Recycler of the Year. The award recognizes organizations that made significant environmental contributions by recycling VCT materials during demolition projects, resulting in waste reduction in landfill materials, transportation and energy, Armstrong says.
Kroger received this award, according to Armstrong, because of its commitment to waste reduction as demonstrated by its efforts to reclaim VCT from multiple stores throughout the country in 2013.
Kroger began recycling VCT flooring, removed during renovation of its grocery stores, nationwide in 2013 through Armstrong’s VCT Recycling Program. To date, the grocery store chain has reclaimed more than 1 million pounds of VCT material.
“Kroger is committed to achieving ‘zero-waste’ facilities and we are continually exploring new ways to achieve this,” says Suzanne Lindsay-Walker, director of sustainability at Kroger. “Our facility engineering teams across our family of stores were instrumental in working with Armstrong to implement the VCT Recycling Program.”
Getting with the program
Target has reclaimed more than 1.2 million pounds VCT from multiple stores throughout the United States in 2012 and earned the Flooring Recycler of the Year from Armstrong for its efforts that year. Target began implementing recycling of its VCT in 2011. Most recently, the company recycled more than 20,000 pounds of VCT from a Target store in Las Vegas.
Armstrong says its reclamation program for VCT is the first program of its kind to reclaim Armstrong VCT and qualifying competitive VCT flooring products from demolition and renovation projects.
Through the program, VCT flooring is recycled in a closed-loop, postconsumer stream with reclaimed material and is incorporated into new flooring products. Armstrong has regional recycling facilities in California, Illinois, and Mississippi.
Since 2007, Armstrong reports it has reclaimed and recycled more than 10 million pounds of postconsumer VCT worldwide, representing 5,000 tons of material diverted from landfill.
Armstrong’s VCT Recycling Program is available for jobs 8,000 square feet and larger. The company accepts several of its VCT flooring brands into the program as well as qualified VCT flooring from other manufacturers. Armstrong lists the following instructions on its VCT Recycling Program brochure available at www.armstrong.com/commercialflooring to establish eligibility for a VCT recycling project. The company has a step-by-step process for contractors to follow:
- Call 877-276-7876, option 2 for flooring, then 7 for recycling to be prequalified, and sign and return the Recycling Agreement.
- Approximately two to four weeks before demolition, specially labeled gaylord boxes will ship to the site.
- Remove furniture, partitions, gondolas and shelving, sweep up and dispose of debris.
- Remove old tile with a floor scraper and shovel into the gaylord boxes (Do not use excessive heat to remove tile.)
- Call 877-276-7876, option 2, then 7, to arrange for pickup.
- Attach the provided shipping labels to the gaylord boxes on any side and cover the top with stretch wrap.
Manufacturers also are recycling other types of flooring in great quantities across the country. Tile manufacturer Crossville Inc., Crossville, Tennessee, has diverted 40 million pounds of fired porcelain since launching its Tile Take-Back program and TOTO USA partnership. These recycling initiatives are based on the company’s proprietary process for recycling fired porcelain products, including postconsumer materials. Through Tile Take-Back, Crossville says it is able to recycle previously installed tile collected from its distribution network, as well as scraps that result from tile cutting during installation, sizing or sample creation.
Through its TOTO partnership, Crossville receives preconsumer-fired porcelain toilets that do not meet quality standards; prior to the partnership, these cast-offs were being sent to landfills for disposal.
All 40 million pounds of diverted material have been or will be recycled into feed stock to manufacture new tile, leading Crossville to maintain net waste consumption at its plants for a third consecutive year. Net waste consumption is achieved by using more waste than is created during production.
Between both Tile Take-Back and the TOTO USA partnership, Crossville says it achieved the following in 2013:
- ground and reused 7.7 million pounds of fired scrap produced at the company’s plants that would have previously gone to landfills;
- received and recycled 87,411 pounds of waste including scraps and post-consumer tile extracted from renovation projects; and
- received and recycled more than 7.3 million pounds of scrap porcelain from TOTO.
Since the Tile Take-Back launch in 2009, the company’s cumulative recycling totals include:
- nearly 18 million pounds of fired scrap produced at Crossville’s plants;
- more than 300,000 pounds of scrap and postconsumer tile; and
- 20.9 million pounds of scrap porcelain from TOTO USA.
Crossville officials state that the 2013 increase was the result of a higher volume of sanitaryware sent by TOTO, as well as more internally produced fired scrap resulting from the trend toward the popularity of larger and modular sizes achieved through cutting of field tile.
Tile Take-Back and the TOTO USA partnership are just two of many sustainable practices Crossville says it maintains companywide.
The Tile Take-Back program is Crossville’s answer to the major environmental problem facing the tile industry today: the recycling of fired tile.
Because Crossville says this program is beneficial throughout the industry, the company accepts postconsumer tile from other brands as well as projects not originating from Crossville.
In 2011, Crossville launched a partnership with sanitaryware manufacturer TOTO USA to receive and recycle that company’s fired porcelain refuse.
Today, there is recycled content in every square foot of porcelain tile produced by Crossville because of the harvested material from TOTO, reducing the need for raw materials for tile production, the company says.
Crossville, founded in 1986, says it is the first U.S. tile manufacturer to achieve the following:
- produce large format tile on site;
- manufacture tile with certified recycled content;
- develop the Tile Take-Back program for recycling fired porcelain tile;
- achieve certification of its waste recycling programs;
- achieve the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA’s) Green Squared certification for all of its U.S.-produced tile lines;
- distribute a complete line of large format, 3 millimeter-thin porcelain panels (Laminam by Crossville); and
- become a net consumer of waste.
More information on Crossville’s Tile Take-Back Program, as well as the company’s partnerships, is available at www.crossvilleinc.com
Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, answers questions about its Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT) Flooring Recycling Program in an exclusive Q&A available at www.CDRecycler.com/cdr0714-armstrong-vct-qa.aspx.
In Helsinki, Finland, a robot called ZRR (ZenRobotics Recycler) is enabling the recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) materials which, until now, was a difficult task for humans to perform. By banking on ZenRobotics Ltd., SITA Finland, a Suez Environnement subsidiary, based in Paris, that specializes in designing high-tech recycling robots, is betting on the green, smart and cooperative economy of the future.
Once upon a time, there was a robot that liked sorting waste. But not just any waste. It specifically liked sorting the type of waste that is difficult, or even dangerous, for humans to handle. This robot is known as the ZenRobotics Recycler and is the creation of a Finnish company that bears the same name, ZenRobotics Ltd.
The company, founded in 2007, and specializing in robotic recycling methods, was pleased with the arrival of ZRR, its very first creation. The company says the robot was intelligent, responsive, quick, thorough and indefatigable and able to extract raw materials from C&D debris.
Its viewing system and its artificial intelligence enable the robot to determine the nature of the material that passes in front of it on a moving belt, and to select the waste that has the greatest value from a recycling and recovery standpoint. Its pincers grab wooden, metal or stone items and steer them toward containers. ZenRobotics Ltd. says it found a great partner in SITA Finland.
Forming a partnership
This partnership between the two companies began in 2011, the year ZRR was born in Helsinki, Finland. It was the very place where the paths of ZRR creators and Suez Environnement crossed. While SITA is renowned for offering innovative solutions in the environmental field, the company says it is at least as famous for its propensity to form partnerships.
When SITA made a commitment to ZenRobotics, the primary goal consisted of testing ZRR’s capabilities on-site. Following successful tests, both parties officially announced the acquisition of two robots by SITA: a ZRR Heavy Picker and a ZRR Fast Picker in addition to the trial robot already on-site. The effectiveness of these robots, which are capable of extracting raw materials from C&D rubble in a safe way, was unprecedented, according to SITA. One year later, in September 2013, both parties signed a framework agreement to roll out ZRR systems worldwide.
When the partnership was sealed, Juho Malmberg, CEO of ZenRobotics, said, “This is a great day in ZenRobotics’ history. Suez Environnement, a global leader in waste management and recovery, has understood the benefits of our robotic recycling technology. Thanks to this worldwide framework agreement, both companies are now in pole position where new recycling technologies are concerned.”
The agreement aims to streamline the ZRR system ordering process for Suez Environnement’s subsidiaries, the company says.
If new analysis from London-based research firm Frost & Sullivan is any indication of the growth expected in the C&D recycling industry in Europe, then Helsinki, Finland-based ZenRobotics will be in a prime position to capitalize on it.
The report, titled “European Construction and Demolition Recycling Services Market,” finds that the C&D recycling market earned revenues of $18.75 billion in 2013 and expects this to reach $23.85 billion by 2020.
An estimated 25.9 percent increase in the volume of waste until 2020 is intensifying the demand for limiting landfilling. Environmental and land availability concerns apart, the report notes that rising landfill prices are brightening the prospects of market participants that provide sustainable and economically sound solutions for C&D waste management.
The growing volume of C&D debris has become a significant concern in Europe, according to the report. The C&D market in the region is governed by regulations regarding waste reduction, recycling and diversion of waste material resources away from landfilling. Therefore, the need to recycle C&D debris has prompted waste management companies to optimize collection systems and increase recycling volumes, the report surmises.
“Market development is strongly driven by the Waste Directive (2008/98/EC), wherein C&D waste must achieve a recycling target of 70 percent by 2020,” says Frost & Sullivan Energy & Environmental Research Analyst Monika Chrusciak. “Market revenues will also get a leg up from the future optimization of collection and recycling technologies.”
However, local legislation is not uniformly transposed despite strong European Union support for C&D recycling. Participants often are challenged by the misleading waste categorization and high recycling level indications. Dissimilar local interpretations lead to high variations in regional market development, which ultimately affect market dynamics and profitability.
Furthermore, the report notes C&D debris can be difficult and expensive to sort, collect and transport, as the material is highly heterogeneous and voluminous. These issues highlight the need for an integrated smart management solution that facilitates material recovery and related business economics, and may provide just the market for ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) waste sorting system to thrive.
“The current lack of smart management solutions is affecting the recycled materials’ quality,” notes Chrusciak. “Hence, data regarding the quality and quantity of C&D waste material is crucial for long-term collaborations with final recycling companies.”
The analysis predicts Europe is expected to experience increased infrastructure development. The region is emerging from a downturn and building companies will be looking to optimize costs and use recycled aggregate as an alternative to costly primary material. These trends, along with greater green building development, bode well for the recycling services market, Frost & Sullivan states.
“The market is anticipated to continue growing as individual European governments, especially in Western Europe, are creating legal frameworks and encouraging the development of C&D recycling services,” observes Chrusciak. “Higher investments in these services will aid the optimal processing of recyclable waste and improve safety work standards as well.”
More information from the Frost & Sullivan report is available at www.environmental.frost.com.
A new revolution
The transaction turned the Helsinki facility into the most robotic C&D recycling facility in the word, according to SITA. ZRR sorts waste so thoroughly that the amount going to landfill or to incinerators is decreasing. In fact, thanks to ZRR, 12,000 metric tons of raw materials are retrieved every year.
The ZRR system specifically enables a facility’s yield ratio to increase from 70 to 90 percent, according to SITA. The ultimate goal is to exceed 95 percent recovery. Another strong point is the fact that ZRR can lift items that weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms), while its capacity, which is calculated based on a cycle of 3 to 4 seconds and an item weight of between 4.4 to 17.6 pounds (2 to 8 kilograms), is around 10 metric tons per hour. If the plant allowed the robot to work for around 6,000 hours, the minimum capacity would be 12,000 metric tons per year and the maximum capacity 60,000 metric tons per year.
Christophe Cros, deputy chief executive officer of Suez Environnement in charge of the waste activities in Europe, explains the nature and the effects of a win-win partnership. “As a pioneer in the incorporation of innovative recycling technologies, Suez Environnement has supported ZenRobotics’ R&D since the beginning as a pilot customer,” he says. “We are now moving to a new stage involving the implementation of the ZenRobotics Recycler technology on an industrial scale.
“The construction and demolition waste recovery sector is booming, and is expanding at a rapid pace,” adds Cros. “The ZRR will enable an improvement in the sorting ratio.”
The implementation of this automatic sorting system provided an opportunity for Suez Environnement and ZenRobotics to test a new business model based on cooperation. ZRR is the prototype for these androids, which are described everywhere as the “next major industrial revolution,” Cros continues.
If, as Bruno Bonnell, the digital world and robotics specialist, says, “the intelligence provided to objects will result in the same technological and societal breakthrough as electricity or the Internet,” then we are entitled to see preliminary signs of that breakthrough in ZRR opening for business. Cooperation, intelligence and the green economy are the cornerstones of the new industrial revolution, which are gradually falling into place. The distributed capitalism suggested by economist Jeremy Rifkin is now within our reach.
The article was submitted by Paris-based Suez Environnement, www.suez-environnement.com.