7 considerations to think about before building a C&D recycling facility

7 considerations to think about before building a C&D recycling facility

Operators must consider site specifics when working to devise recycling facility design plans.

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February 4, 2021

The success of a C&D recycling operation is determined, at least in part, long before the doors of the facility are first opened. That’s because site design, layout and construction play such a pivotal role in how efficient and safe a recycling business ultimately is.

Nat Egosi is president of Melville, New York-based RRT Design & Construction, which has specialized in solid waste and recycling facility engineering and construction throughout the U.S. for over 30 years. According to Egosi, there are seven primary considerations that should influence the design and operation of a C&D MRF.

Dealing with stormwater

Egosi says that contact stormwater, or water that comes into contact with C&D materials placed outdoors, has become a focus of regulators in recent years. Since this runoff can contain particulates, oils, grease, metal and other substances, legislators have begun to put laws in place that aim to curb environmental pollution.

Egosi says that one of the ways recyclers can deal with this runoff is investing in a stormwater collection system where the water that comes into contact with the C&D can be managed, contained, collected and then treated. In large part, this requires paving the site.

While stormwater mitigation systems can offer some relief from environmental threats, Egosi says moving all materials and operations under a roof is a more comprehensive solution. Indoor operation has already become mandatory in mixed waste applications, and some scrap metal processors are moving in this direction as well for their operations. Egosi says more C&D recyclers may follow suit with indoor operations rather than deal with mounting legal and regulatory challenges, as well as increasing costs.

“On the C&D side, as time goes on, I expect to see more and more that operators are going to put a roof structure or some mechanism to prevent stormwater from making contact with the C&D at their site,” Egosi says. [Between the stormwater] and other issues that can come with open-air operations such as aesthetic issues, noise, dust and other things that can cause environmental and community relation problems, ultimately, a business owner is going to say, ‘I just need to put a roof over this thing.’ Of course, what often follows is automation to reduce the building size with a corresponding reduction in operating costs and quicker material movements to reduce pile sizes.”

Ensuring safety

Recycling facilities can be dangerous places for both customers and workers due primarily to traffic, heavy machine operation and visual obstructions. Egosi says C&D recycling facilities can be especially problematic from a safety point of view since outdoor operations can lend themselves to more free-flowing traffic and less certainty of where to go. To improve safety at these facilities, Egosi says workers need to be in place and trained to address these challenges.

Principally, Egosi recommends having a coordinator in charge of managing those coming and going from the facility. He also says workers (who should be dressed in proper PPE and easily identifiable gear) should be tasked with proactively addressing safety issues brought about by things like inclement weather, slippery surfaces and visual obstructions. Finally, he says that staff should be present at the scale to give drivers guidance of where to go to ensure there is no confusion.

“Unless there’s a coordinator at the site that’s very carefully managing and policing and coordinating how the traffic flows, it can be more of a free-for-all,” Egosi says. “So, if somebody is not familiar with a site and hasn’t been to the site before, or they’re having a problem with their truck, all these things could lead to significant safety hazards for the employees that are working on the site as much as the people that are coming to the site. A well-trained staff can help mitigate these issues.”

Allowing for turning movement

To ensure a C&D facility is built with adequate dimensions, Egosi says that the business owner and the company designing the site have to be on the same page in terms of how vehicles will be moving inside the building. He says because facility designers are often unfamiliar with industry-specific vehicles, they may not understand their respective turning radiuses. This can lead to space constraints if not factored into the building’s layout. To overcome this, he says the business owner and designer should discuss the size and movement patterns of all different types of vehicles that may be entering the property.

“The individual who is doing the design should be in very close interaction with the operator, who’s very experienced in the vehicles that will be entering the building,” he says. “The engineer is experienced with site builds, but neither one of them typically interact with the other on daily basis. So, they’re not speaking the same language.”

Egosi says that after getting educated on the types of vehicles coming into a site, designers can include drawings of these vehicles within the blueprint of a facility. This will allow builders to show the vehicle movement so the owner-operator can vet that there won’t be space constraints once the actual facility is designed.

Place proper signage

Proper signage is a must for ensuring an orderly operation.

Egosi says that adequate signage can help direct traffic, identify evacuation routes, distinguish where certain materials go and warn of hazards, to name a few uses.

Having clear and readable signs not only allows for more seamless operation and greater efficiency, it can help prevent accidents. However, since site layouts can change and operations evolve over time, operators should make sure their signage can be altered as needed.

Egosi says that having both fixed and movable signs can help businesses adjust to changing layouts and traffic flows on the fly. This way, the site’s owners aren’t hemmed in and can clearly communicate to visitors, even when operations change.

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Room for queuing

When designing a C&D recycling site, ample room for queuing is imperative for preventing logjams within the facility and for ensuring residential traffic isn’t affected by trucks coming and going.

“It’s important that the trucks that are arriving to be weighed on the scale have enough room that traffic is queuing off of the public road,” Egosi says. “And then typically in C&D, when the trucks are leaving, they need to be weighed out, so there has to be enough room in the opposite direction for the trucks that are leaving to get on the scale. If there isn’t enough room, then that truck is actually going to be in the same area where the operators are working with the C&D, which is a problem.”

He says that to prevent space constraints due to queuing, business owners can invest in two separate scales for incoming and outgoing traffic. However, he notes that economics and building size often don’t allow for this. In these cases, two-way scales can be utilized to make the most out of the space at the site.

Segregating loads

Egosi says that mixed C&D facilities should be designed with specific areas to house specific materials. While every type of material should have its place, these holding areas need not be uniform.

“You want to divide incoming material so it doesn’t get cross-contaminated with all the rest of the material, but it may arrive in different volumes,” he says. “You may have some roofing shingles that come in, but you may not get a lot of them, so maybe the shingles can go into a smaller area that is not as frequented as other areas where you’re getting a lot of material, such as wood.”

Egosi also says operators should design their facility for fluctuating tonnages and volumes, which can shift based on seasonality, recessions, and local construction and demolition activity.

“When you’re designing a facility, you have to think not only about what happens if you have to double your throughput, but also, what can you do if your throughput drops to half of what you’re doing now?” he says. “You have to think, ‘How can I still operate profitably?’ because there’s more variability in C&D than there is in a single-stream MRF or solid waste facility.”

Fire control

Fires are a major threat to C&D recycling facilities. Egosi says that sites should be designed with specific isolated areas where incoming hot loads can be moved so that the burning material can be sequestered without serving as a fire risk.

Egosi also says that operators need to have a fire plan in place because “if you have a C&D site, and specifically if you’re taking in wood, you’re probably shredding and you’re probably grinding. These operations will invariably lead to a fire over time. It’s just a question of what is your method of dealing with that?”

He says that beyond having a plan, the right equipment is essential. This can range from traditional sprinkler systems to the latest remote-monitored fire suppression equipment that can identify and put out fires even when no one is at the site.

The right advice

Although there are some universal design best practices, what makes sense for one facility may not make sense for another.

Regardless of the operation, business owners can help ensure their C&D facility is purpose-built for their needs by spending time with experienced design build specialists, architects and equipment providers. These professionals can help ensure a facility is built not only to meet an owner’s current needs, but also, able to accommodate forthcoming changes to the business.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. Feb. issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine. The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be reached at aredling@gie.net.