Minnesota Construction Waste Handler Expands Its Recovery Output with Rotochopper Equipment
“Green doesn’t happen overnight; it happens daily… ” -Dem-Con Companies,Shakopee, MN
When you consider the full significance of the words above—“Green doesn’t happen overnight”— you begin to understand the commitment to green solutions that defines a construction waste handling company like Dem-Con. A third generation family owned facility, Dem-Con has been conscientiously handling waste materials for decades. Since 1985, Dem Con has specialized in handling construction and demolition debris (C&D), and they have been steadily increasing their resource recovery capacities and providing their customers with greener solutions.
Dem-Con currently recovers wood fiber, asphalt shingles, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, aggregates, and other recyclable materials—at least 50 percent of all construction debris, with a goal of exceeding 75% in the near future. (The company’s recovery numbers are posted monthly on their website at www.dem-con.com.) But as they stress, the growth of their green practices has not simply happened overnight. It has required careful planning and collaboration with government agencies, equipment manufacturers, waste haulers, and the end users of recovered resources.
As Dem-Con CEO Jason Haus explains, “One of the challenges for large-scale recovery is the equipment—not just in terms of capital expenditures, but the day-to-day performance and expenses.” To recover resources from mixed waste, he stresses, “you need a system that works day in and day out and makes the quality finished products end users demand.” In the business of recovering sorted C & D wood fiber and asphalt shingles, finished product quality control can be a challenge, he says. Company President Mark Pahl elaborates: “People depend on us, both to accept waste materials and to supply recycled products. The trucks don’t stop coming if we have downtime. Our wood fiber and RAS [recycled asphalt shingles] end markets require strict size and quality specs we need to consistently meet, with a steady volume.”
That is one reason, he says, they turned to Rotochopper, Inc. In the spring of 2008, Dem-Con added an RG-1 to their equipment fleet and began recycling tear-off shingles and manufacturer’s shingle scrap. Currently, Dem-Con is expanding its shingle recycling services, as they are taking on more custom grinding jobs for other companies with shingle waste in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Oregon. Haus stresses that steady uptime is particularly important for custom grinding jobs. “When we are hundreds of miles from our operating facility, we can’t afford downtime to apply hardfacing or perform other major wear-related maintenance. We contract by the ton, so we want to cut maintenance costs and time as much as possible.” He notes that the wear costs they are getting from their RG-1 allow Dem-Con to stay very competitive on pricing when bidding for shingle grinding contracts.
Before purchasing an RG-1, they researched the market and shingle grinding equipment. Wear costs were a major factor when they decided on the RG-1, but uptime and customer support were even more important. “Rotochopper has a strong reputation for standing behind their equipment with good support,” says Haus. “They’ve been there when we’ve needed them with technical support, parts, and service.”
Shortly after Dem-Con began recycling shingle waste, they completed construction of a state of the art sorting system to process the C & D materials they receive at their Shakopee, MN facility. Through mechanical and manual separation, they recover wood fiber, cardboard, asphalt shingles, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, aggregate, and other valuable resources. Materials that cannot currently be recovered are sent to the landfill that Dem-Con operates. The fines screened out prior to the grinding process—sheet rock dust, metal shavings, dirt, small wood particles, and other debris—provide a suitable alternative daily cover (ADC) for their landfill.
They process the sorted wood fiber with a Rotochopper EC-266 electric grinder that operates in-line with their sorting line. The processed wood fiber is sold as boiler fuel. “The EC-266 is a great machine for sorted C & D,” says Haus. “It’s operating all day, every day. It’s providing a finished boiler fuel product our customers like.” Haus also notes that the machine is the right size for their sorting line and the periodic batch feeding that they do. “Throughout the planning phase, the Rotochopper staff worked with us to make sure we’d have the right size machine to keep our costs low and our production steady. The EC-266 also gives us room to grow as we increase our recycling output.”
C & D
Sorted C & D
Boiler Fuel from C & D
Dimensional lumber, steel, concrete, aluminum, etc.
Dimensional lumber, OSB board, plywood, etc.
3-inch minus wood fiber free of metal & other contaminants
With their combination of materials recovery, on-site recycling, and responsible landfill practices, Dem-Con exemplifies the daily commitment needed to achieve greener solutions. “Successfully recovering resources from commingled waste requires that every part of the system operates efficiently and effectively, from each employee to each piece of equipment,” says Haus. “Downtime must be minimized, and product quality is crucial.” Because Dem-Con sells their sorted wood fiber for boiler fuel, they must ensure that it is free of not only contaminants such as paint, stain, nails, and other metals, but also over-sized pieces. The same quality control procedures apply to the asphalt shingles Dem-Con processes and sells as a replacement for virgin asphalt cement (AC).
These recovery practices also demonstrate the value of green marketability. As Mark Pahl states, their customers are increasingly looking for greener waste handling solutions. A waste handling company’s green practices (or lack thereof) can be a major deciding factor when companies are choosing where to bring their waste materials. “In our business of handling construction waste, we see the pressure for green practices coming from every level, from the roll-off companies and property managers, as well as homeowners,” Pahl says. By exceeding the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for C & D recycling, Dem-Con is able to offer LEED credits for green building projects, as defined by the Green Building Rating System established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Haus feels strongly that “People want to know what happens with the waste materials they generate.” In short, the people who rely on waste handling companies like Dem-Con are looking for transparency.
As Haus notes, their sorting line, RG-1 shingle grinder, and EC-266 wood grinder make strong impressions on their customer base. “When people see pictures or tour our facility, the integrated solid waste management process and the recovery techniques at our site make sense. They understand what we’re all about.” The sorting and grinding processes, he says, are “easy to understand, and
when people see material leaving the site on its way to the end markets, it all comes together. The grinding we do is just one part of our recovery efforts, but it’s one of the processes that interests people most. Those who visit our site ask the most questions about quality, quantities, and durability of the equipment.”
This increased awareness of their greener practices is having an immediate impact on relationships with their customers, industry partners, and community. Dem-Con Companies believes in an integrated solid waste management approach to waste handling. Included in this practice is prevention, recycling, and a responsible disposal solution for those materials that cannot be recovered. “The first thought someone has of our business is that of a landfill, not a recovery and recycling company. This mentality is changing, and those who have visited our site understand that there is a lot more to our process than just landfilling,” Haus states. “Even though waste handling companies perform a valuable and necessary service to the public, they often receive an unfair reputation based on practices that occurred decades ago which have been replaced with sustainable solutions.”
Producing valuable, environmentally-friendly commodities like boiler fuel and RAS from waste materials helps the public understand that options exist for the recovery of these materials that were once only landfilled. Currently, Pahl observes, the waste handling companies that don’t adopt greener practices are losing ground to companies that are increasing their recovery methods, not because of government regulations but consumer demand. Both Haus and Pahl believe that the recovery of mixed C&D materials will allow them to grow within an industry that is looking for greener solutions to handle materials that were once destined for landfill. “That is not to say that recovery and recycling of these materials is easy. It is a challenge everyday,” Haus states, “but with the right people and equipment in place, it can be done. And just like the daily challenges, knowing that we are doing the right thing is integral to what we do, every day.”