Crushing it

Features - Operations Focus // Recycled Aggregate Sizing

Cherry Cos.’ 12 concrete crushing and stabilized material sites grow the company’s footprint and keep its product costs down.

July 17, 2018

Demolition and construction projects can produce immense amounts of debris in the form of concrete, metal, shingles and wood. The actions taken when disposing of this debris determine whether it will wind up at a landfill or recycling center. Cherry Cos., Houston, has forged its path as a demolition contractor and recycling firm.

Cherry Cos. has been in business for more than 65 years and recycles more than two million tons of concrete and asphalt and thousands of tons of steel every year. The company produces more than two million tons of stabilized material annually for the greater Houston area. The company also specializes in structural removal ranging from highways and bridges to industrial plants, commercial buildings and residences.

With such a large quantity of material to process, Cherry has opened 12 concrete crushing and stabilized material locations across the area, including in Houston, Spring, Rosharon, Richmond, Cypress, Manvel, Hitchcock and Fresno. The recycled crushed concrete is used primarily in road and highway projects, and the stabilized material ends up in parking lots, underground utilities, pipeline support and storm sewers, among other uses.

“Location makes a huge difference in accepting, processing and transporting products,” Joe Rizzo, vice president of business development, Cherry Cos., says. “Our stabilized products have a shelf life and need to be delivered quickly. Also, the cost of transportation and distances the trucks travel add to the price of the product, so having facilities strategically located in and around the greater Houston area allows us to be competitive with our pricing.”

Keeping down costs

Cherry Cos. opened its first crushing yard in 1996. According to the company, some of the 12 facilities are dedicated to crushing and recycling concrete, others are used to produce stabilized material and some process both. The sites that recycle concrete produce 2,000 tons of crushed concrete per day, while the sites that stabilize produce 7,000 tons per day. Crushers, screens, pugmills, loaders and excavators are used at all sites.

The types of stabilized materials produced include portland cement, water, and either sand, recycled aggregate or natural aggregate. Once mixed in the pugmill, the material has a shelf life of approximately four hours before it hardens. To extend that shelf life, Cherry Cos. deposits the stabilized material into trucks that transport the material. The company says stabilized sand is the most popular stabilized material it produces by volume.

Concrete crushing sites receive material from Cherry’s own demolition projects and from other contractors. As an example, Cherry crews recently worked on a bridge demolition project where the concrete and rebar were processed. The bridge was torn down, and the debris was broken up on-site with hammers. It was then loaded into the trucks that transported it to one of its nearby crushing facilities. There, the concrete was further reduced in size to fit in the crusher, sorted and then crushed.

The company says the recycled concrete goes through the line where it is sorted mechanically and by hand, then crushed and screened to produce a variety of different sized products, such as 3/8-inch-minus fines, 1- to 1.5-inch flex base, 1- to 1.5-inch screened rock, bull rock, blanket stone, grades 1 and 2 rip rap, recycled asphalt pavement and asphalt shingles.

For the most part, the company says, each concrete crushing site uses the same processing line. Six sites have a stationary crusher and three satellite sites stockpile concrete and bring a portable crusher to the site once there is enough to process.

Weighing out the benefits

While having 12 locations helps facilitate production for Cherry Cos., there are some challenges, such as maintaining a full staff at each site.

“Having enough employees to be there at all these different sites can sometimes be a challenge.” Rizzo says. “We have over 300 full-time employees and continue to add as Cherry Cos. expands its footprint and opens additional recycling concrete and stabilized material facilities in the greater Houston area.”

With the company’s number of employees and large scope of operations, comprehensive oversight is critical for facilitating production. Cherry says having a maintenance manager and production manager oversee and ensure the safety of each facility helps streamline production and maintain quality control at each site.

“‘Safety first’ is our motto, and we want to make sure everything is done correctly,” Rizzo says.

Although managing a dozen locations can be complex, according to the company, it allows Cherry Cos. to better meet its customers’ needs. In addition to helping mitigate the limited shelf life of its products, Cherry says the 12 sites allow the company to better reach customers and contractors, which decreases the cost and time needed for transportation. This allows the company to maintain a fair price for its products.

“We can reach just about anybody in the greater Houston area,” Rizzo says. “We have access to our own fleet of trucks, we have the ability to get to you wherever you are in a timely manner and, because of that, we can keep our products’ costs down.”

The author is the assistant editor for Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at