Rock Products - The Leading Voice of the Aggregate Industries.

The Economy: Crushed And Recycled


Like all else, the construction and demolition recycling industry took a nasty blow when the economy nose-dived. With less being built privately and publicly,

ADAM MADISON

Like all else, the construction and demolition recycling industry took a nasty blow when the economy nose-dived. With less being built privately and publicly, there is less to tear down and recycle. Estimating the hit, however, is largely anecdotal, but the future looks promising for those involved.

Construction Materials Recycling Association Executive Director William Turley follows the economic forecast produced annually via the Portland Cement Association. He says CMRA members are dependent on the same road and bridge work as the rest as the aggregate industry. He says they are starting to see a slight increase as stimulus money trickles their way, but things are still pretty dead. He's counting on the middle of 2010 for the real turnaround. This prediction is based on PCA numbers because it's much more difficult to track recycled materials.

Recycling operations often are overlooked, as they are increasingly mobile. Whereas, a quarry and the corresponding concrete facilities are fixed in place. Recycled concrete or asphalt pavement is easily prepared on site and put right back into the end product. This is most often the individual contractor seeking to reduce his own costs rather than selling it by the ton. Even the landfills are getting smart and have begun crushing incoming debris to maintain service roads.

Product Development Manager Patrick Reaver for Astec Mobile Screens says that 2009 sales are down for KPI-JCI, another division of Astec Industries. The company collectively serves the aggregate, asphalt and concrete recycling markets. The aggregate market has taken the largest hit, but the recycling industry has helped soften the blow.

This year, Reaver says, it was a processing plant for RAP millings that fed the families of Astec Mobile Screens' dealers. The ProSizer is a processing plant for RAP millings. Likewise, it has been reported that the production of asphalt chips has been carrying the crippled aggregate industry, as municipalities pave rather than rebuild. Reaver says he has seen new markets for RAP equipment in Chicago, as Illinois recently developed a new spec for RAP. The crave for RAP also can be found in rural areas such as those in Kansas or Missouri, he says. New Mexico has begun using fractionated RAP to seal coat roads.

Concrete-recycling machines also are being moved, according to Reaver. Many individual contractors crushing for road base are good customers, but he says recycling machines also are being sold to concrete block companies looking to minimize waste.

ìLast year, equipment sold for the recycle market made up about 35% of our overall business, while this year ó so far ó it has accounted for 53% of our business,î Reaver says. ìLast year, the international screen boxes accounted for about 2% of our business, while this year it accounts for about 10% of our business.î

On the aggregate side, sales are down domestically. However, this includes Canadian sales, which suffered much less than those in the United States. Individual screen boxes still are selling, as high-frequency continues to gain industry acceptance.

Turley says that crushing on site with a track-mounted machine cuts out the middle man. Those efforts are further supported ó even applauded ó by the public with an increased desire to embrace green building from multiple fronts. Future demand for recycled construction materials will likely increase in the years to come.

Turley says it also is economically advantageous for the taxpayer funding highway projects. ìIf it's three bucks a ton, and it's a 40,000 ton job, that's $120,000 that would look a heck of a lot better in the school system than it would in the road.î

Still some controversy remains. The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association's prepared statement on recycling is: ìNSSGA and its member companies encourage life cycle reuse of products during manufacturing and for post-consumer applications when it is cost effective and will bolster the nation's sagging infrastructure without jeopardizing the future quality of that infrastructure or the environment.î

NSSGA says, ìPavement materials vary widely from site to site, due to the type and quality of the original materials used, aging degradation caused by traffic loadings and environmental exposure. As a consequence, the properties of aggregates produced from recycled pavements also vary widelyÖ. Not all solid-waste products are suitable for recycling into AC or PCC.î

But does recycled aggregate jeopardize future quality of infrastructure? ìNo.î Turley says. ìThat rock was good 30 or 40 years ago when they sold it the first time. Rock is rock.î Turley even argues that as a road base, crushed concrete is superior to virgin aggregate, as it has the benefit of having unhydrated cement particles.

While the two associations continue to slug it out, there will no longer be any denying that recycled aggregates and asphalt pavement has gained a foothold.

Jason Willett, crushed stone commodity specialist for the U.S. Geological Survey, guesses that the aggregate industry looses a mere 1% of market share to recycled materials, but it's uncertain how that is changing. Judging by the amount of highway needing repair, there will be a lot of material to recycle when the economy makes its alleged rebound in 2010.

This year, however, charting the course of the C&D markets remains guesswork, although it is destined to improve. Recently USGS has begun investigating how much of this material is being used. Willett explains how in 2008 it began surveying contractors and companies that it reached through member directories of various industry associations. The numbers that were just released (see Table 1) illustrate an increase, but Willett says not to read too far into that.

The survey is still new, and it's been difficult getting all of the right people to respond. Yet, Willett has vowed to conduct the survey year after year just as he does with aggregates. Each year the numbers should come closer to accurate as the survey population increases and the industry becomes more educated and responsive.

The 2008 Construction Aggregates Recycle Data includes information from 1,039 recycling operations. This has been expanded from a population of sites strictly located near pits and quarries to anyone operating a crusher to reuse materials. This was made possible with the cooperation of industry associations that provided member directories. These associations included the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Asphalt Recycling & Reclaiming Association, as well as CMRA.

If nothing else, the USGS's interest indicates the growing acceptance of recycled materials as a valid source of materials and a means to cut costs. USGS believes more recycling is being performed on the job site, which means less material is being brought back to the quarry to be crushed and resold.

Whether or not there will be much less virgin aggregate leaving the quarry remains uncalculated. But if economists are correct, there should still be a sunrise behind the looming dust for all producing construction materials.

Table 1: The table shows year-after-year increases in quantities and values of recycled materials. However, this is due to the rapidly increasing number of survey responses. The value data also was provided by respondents.

RECYCLED ASPHALT PAVEMENT AND CRUSHED CONCRETE

(Thousand metric tons and thousand dollars)

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Quantity 13,400 14,400 15,400 20,100 29,200
Value 79,900 99,200 111,000 150,000 267,000
Source: U.S. Geological Survey