Out on an island

How Hawaii Materials Recycling (HMR) is helping preserve Maui’s landfill space and protect the environment through its C&D recycling operations.

Photos by Scott Drexler

C&D Recycling is critical throughout the U.S., but its importance becomes amplified in geographies where space is at a premium. One such location is on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Although it has long been a pressing issue in Maui, the need to preserve landfill space became even more pronounced in 2016 when the only C&D landfill on the island closed, leaving companies without a permitted location to take excess inert materials.

Realizing the need for a solution, Pete Sullivan opened Kihei, Hawaii-based Hawaii Materials Recycling (HMR) in 2018 to help recycle concrete, asphalt, rock, dirt and clean sand. Sullivan, who has also served as the owner of PB Sullivan Construction since he established the company in 1994, says opening a C&D recycling facility focused on inert waste was a natural extension of his construction company’s operations.

After Maui's only C&D landfill closed in 2016, Pete Sullivan saw an opportunity to expand on the crushing and screening work his construction company, PB Sullivan Construction, had been offering since 2006. Presently, HMR processes concrete, asphalt, rock, dirt and clean sand into a number of different products.

“We have been crushing and screening rock, concrete and asphalt on job sites to support our construction company since 2006,” he says. “In 2016, the only C&D landfill on the island closed and there was no other permitted place to take materials. Quite often, there is a surplus of excavated rock or dirt on a job site. Ideally, you would take this material to another job site that requires the material, however, that is not always available, so it was a natural progression to open the facility.”

Although the need was clear, getting permission to open the recycling site, which sits on 10 acres HMR leases from landowner Haleakala Ranch, did come with its own set of challenges, Sullivan says.

He says HMR had to wait a year to get an initial permit to operate crushers on-site and about three years to get the special use permit from the county of Maui to use agricultural land for a recycling facility as well as three years to get a solid waste permit from the state’s department of health. He says to help facilitate the permitting process, HMR utilized a team of environmental, traffic, solid waste, civil engineering and land planning consultants, without whom “this process could have been much more painful,” according to Sullivan.

Getting the green light

Once HMR was able to procure the necessary permits, operations commenced in April 2018.

Sullivan says that in addition to his own construction company, other construction and demolition contractors, trucking companies and waste management providers are HMR’s biggest customers. These customers drop off C&D materials to the facility, with some leaving loaded with the company’s recycled materials to use on job sites. Additionally, the site is open to homeowners who come in for topsoil, wall rock and other products.

To process the 108,690 tons of material the facility received in 2019, HMR employs two fulltime employees and brings in several more when needed to help with crushing operations. Sullivan says the company also employs a range of different specialized recycling equipment to meet its needs.

“We use equipment from our construction company, and we favor Caterpillar,” he says. “We load the crushers with either a 330, 336, 345 or 349 Caterpillar excavator. A 972 Caterpillar wheel loader supports the crushing operation and loads outgoing trucks. As for the crushing and screening, a typical setup begins with a Komatsu 550 as our primary jaw crusher, which feeds a Powerscreen 1800 two-deck scalping screen. Then, material goes into a Pegson 1300 cone crusher that feeds into a Powerscreen 2100 three-deck screen that recirculates back to the cone and also feeds MGL or Edge stacking conveyors for stockpiling.”

Saving money and the environment

According to Sullivan, being able to recycle C&D materials on Maui has contributed to significant cost savings on the island.

“The cost of concrete here starts at about $150 per cubic yard. We continue to recycle this concrete and turn it into aggregate base course and a fine material used with mortar for masonry work. We also divert previously landfilled or fugitively dumped dirt, rock and asphalt,” he says. “Years ago, we were told by the Maui Department of Environmental Management that the cost to create landfill space was about $77 per cubic yard, so for every cubic yard that we can divert from landfill, we like to think that we are saving the people of this island that money.”

According to Sullivan, an average truckload of 25 tons with rock and dirt pieces larger than three inches can be dropped off at the facility for a tip fee of about $125. At the landfill, that would cost $1,875, he says. Beyond the tip fee savings, Sullivan says that the company’s customers appreciate that HMR is conveniently located in the growing area of South Maui, which has helped contractors save money through reduced trucking costs.

“Our tipping fees are so much lower than at the municipal landfill, we’ve heard people say, ‘[Using HMR] is a no-brainer,’” Sullivan says. “People find it amazing that we do what we do without being a landfill or quarry. … Since our opening, we have diverted from the landfill and from fugitive dumping in gulches and elsewhere and supported construction projects with around 200,000 tons of recycled materials. This value can be expanded into lessened trucking costs and by having trucks loaded both inbound and outbound from the facility, which saves on road wear, lessens traffic and reduces fuel consumption and emissions.”

Beyond helping protect landfill space and lessen trucking costs, HMR works to keep as green of a footprint as possible.

Sullivan says that HMR’s location, which sits in close proximity to waterways that lead to the ocean, presents some challenges, but that the company has been able to manage runoff with site grading and a retention basin.

The company has also been able to leverage its neighbor, the Maui County Wastewater Reclamation Facility, to use reclaimed water for dust suppression, which helps cut down on water waste.

“The R-1 water from the wastewater reclamation facility supplies us with all of the water that we need for dust suppression at a lesser rate than potable water. We were fortunate to have an R-1 watermain running adjacent to our site and were able to install a 2-inch meter with minimal costs. … Being located next to the wastewater facility has actually been a plus because of the stigma attached to these types of facilities—I believe that our facility represents the highest and best use of this land,” Sullivan says.

In addition to using recycled wastewater, the company also relies on solar power to help minimize its energy footprint. HMR employs the power of photovoltaic panels to help power its operations. Sullivan says the scale and scale house office currently are 100 percent powered by solar panels, with a generator for backup if necessary.

While HMR’s sustainability focus has made sense from a financial standpoint, Sullivan says the ability to preserve Maui’s natural resources is what’s most important.

“If we looked at a yard of concrete that weighs about 2.2 tons, and you think about the materials it takes to make up that yard of concrete, I don’t care what form it’s in, it should never go in the landfill,” Sullivan said in a recent release. “So, if we can avoid that and we can process it here, we’re creating less of a scar on the island.”

Sullivan says that the average truckload of 25 tons with rock and dirt pieces larger than three inches can be dropped off for a tip fee of about $125. At the landfill, this would cost $1,875.

Work in progress

As HMR is only coming up on its second anniversary of operations, there is a lot of room to grow, according to Sullivan.

Because the company is located next to a wastewater treatment facility, the organization is currently looking at ways to recycle organics and sewer sludge. Additionally, HMR presently only recycles the metals that are embedded in the concrete it receives since its solid waste permit is specific in allowing only for inert materials. However, Sullivan says HMR is currently communicating with the state’s department of health about modifying the organization’s permit to include the ability to recycle metals.

Sullivan says that contractors, trucking companies, and waste management providers are HMR's biggest customers.

Although it’s still early days for formal C&D recycling in Maui, Sullivan says that being able to offer a more mindful way of managing materials is one of the core reasons he got into the business.

“I believe that we are fortunate to live here, and that the opportunities that are created in this environment and community have greatly benefitted us as a company, so we think we should reciprocate in any way that we can. We work to supply the community with superior service and pricing for tipping fees and outgoing products that is well below what is offered through the standard means.”

The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be reached at aredling@gie.net.

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