The commonwealth of Massachusetts has taken as much action as any other state to encourage higher-volume recycling of C&D materials by placing a landfill ban on some of the most commonly generated C&D materials.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a disposal ban on asphalt pavement, brick, concrete, metal and wood took effect in mid-2006. Five years later in mid-2011, the ban was extended to include clean gypsum wallboard.

Enfield, Connecticut-based USA Hauling & Recycling operates throughout New England, including Massachusetts, and its Director of Post-collection Operations Jonathan Murray acknowledges the DEP waste bans play a role in how the company handles C&D materials.

Murray adds, however, “Sustainability is at the core of all of USA’s operations, and we strive to divert as many materials from disposal as possible. If a material can be recycled or reused, we want to prevent it from ending up in a landfill.”

That combination of factors is why USA Hauling & Recycling recently invested heavily to put in place an enhanced sorting system at its facility in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

Keeping things moving

Equipment from several companies is represented in the upgraded Wilbraham facility, but USA worked closely with Quebec-based Machinex Technologies Inc. on the system design and installation planning.

According to Murray, USA Hauling’s customers generate a variety of materials that feed its C&D sorting and recycling operations. “This facility accepts construction and demolition materials from commercial customers throughout western Massachusetts. This material includes concrete, wood, scrap metal and gypsum, along with other bulky waste and renovation waste.”

Chris Hawn, the North Carolina-based CEO of Machinex, says the green light on the installation was given in late February and early March of 2020—just as COVID-19 started becoming a factor in the American workplace.

“With no need for explanation, everyone pumped the brakes to see how things were going to shake out,” said Hawn of the reaction of both companies as Massachusetts (and all other states) introduced workplace restrictions. “It was a brief pause, but we confirmed the orders and contract in early June,” he adds.

That temporary pause had been preceded by several months of dialog between USA, Machinex and other suppliers, says Hawn. “Machinex and USA worked together for several months to determine the design and layout within the plant,” he comments. “It was a fast-moving project since they had already done their due diligence and had an offer that they were strongly considering.”

Hawn says New Hampshire-based dealer High Ground Equipment and fellow equipment supplier CBI were critical allies in helping Machinex “work at a fast pace to provide [USA Hauling & Recycling] with a competitive solution.”

Murray says USA had clear goals of what it wanted to accomplish with its new system: “This facility was modernized to combine the best of automated sorting with the safest system for manual sorting.”

The pace of the installation process to some extent matched the pickup in productivity anticipated by USA Hauling & Recycling when its more automated system came online.

Studying fractions

Separating materials by weight or density has long played a role in automated sorting, as it allows gravity and other natural forces to accomplish tasks that would otherwise require numerous pairs of human hands. The Wilbraham sorting system follows this time-honored principle.

“The facility utilizes a de-stoner that uses air separation to remove the heavy fraction from the light fraction of the materials that fall through the sizing screen,” says Murray. This, he says, allows “heavier materials such as ABC [asphalt, brick and concrete] rubble, wood, metals and rock to separate from the lighter fraction so that these materials can be recycled.”

Hawn says the nature of C&D materials means, “It goes without saying that all of the equipment needs to be robust to handle the application.”

Machinex supplied much of this sturdy equipment, including a trommel screen for fines separation, says Hawn. Other suppliers chipped in too, including CBI and its regional dealer High Ground Equipment and Newberg, Oregon-based Action Vibratory Equipment.

An Action Taper-Slot vibratory finger screen works in coordination with the Machinex trommel screen and two cross-belt magnets to perform much of the separating (after the de-stoner does its initial work). Toward the end of the automated portion of the line, an AirMax separator supplied by CBI further removes light materials from heavy ones.

The variety of C&D materials that can be brought to the Wilbraham facility means full automation is not necessarily feasible or desirable, says Murray, and hand-picking and sorting continues to play a role.

“While this process is semi-automated, it still requires manual quality control to remove unacceptable materials and to sort the remaining products into the appropriate areas,” he comments. “The remainder of the process requires eight to 10 employees doing manual sorting.”

This includes an ability for employees to focus on manually picking wood at multiple sorting stations, making recovery of a large quantity of wood possible. That helps USA Hauling & Recycling’s customers comply with the law and meet recycling and sustainability targets, such as those found on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) scorecard of the United States Green Building Council.

“This new system allows us to expand our reach further into Massachusetts, helping our customers meet their own recycling goals, increase recycling in our state and, most of all, have a positive impact on the environment by removing materials from the waste stream and reusing them in new products,” says Murray.

Prepared for the future

The USA Hauling & Recycling facility in Wilbraham was ready to open with its new equipment early in 2021. The timing coincided with a return to better health and the reopening of some formerly idled business sectors that has provided a boost to construction activity.

Murray says the system has lived up to expectations in terms of performance, including its ability to increase diversion rates for customers who track that.

“The system has been performing as designed and meeting and exceeding the recycling goals that we set for this facility,” he comments. “We are excited to offer such high diversion rates of C&D material to our customers throughout the region.”

Murray says working jointly with Machinex and other vendors on the installation was likely a factor in the overall success of the project. “Machinex was excellent to work with throughout the design, fabrication, installation and startup,” he states.

The Canadian-based firm, which celebrated its 50th year in business in 2020, also earns praise from Murray because it maintained its timeline for opening the newly designed facility. “Machinex distinguished itself for its responsiveness and quick results with an impressive layout thanks to its installation and start-up teams who finished earlier than anticipated.”

He concludes, “We really appreciate Machinex’s work and flexibility to deliver the system ahead of time. The team at Machinex was a pleasure to work with from design through installation and startup.”

The author is a senior editor of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at btaylor@gie.net.