From Philadelphia to Long Island, New York, and from Richmond, Virginia, to the District of Columbia, the Mid-Atlantic is experiencing a healthy amount of construction and demolition activity, and that is translating into busy processing lines at several C&D recycling facilities. Lower commodity prices and stricter regulations are still an issue in some areas, but overall, the vibe is positive.
Avi Golen, co-owner, Revolution Recovery says the Philadelphia construction market is strong. “This has led to increased volumes for both of our facilities,” he says of the company’s Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, locations. While the volumes are the same, the mix of material varies due to the differing types of building materials in those areas. The Wilmington facility takes in more wood, while the Philadelphia facility is heavier on metals and concrete.
Markets for both rubble and wood are strong in the region, says Golen, though a mild winter and low energy prices have made for a challenging fuel market. Golen sees some price improvement with old corrugated containers (OCC) and metals. Plastics prices are not as low as they have been, and Golen says Revolution Recovery is making adjustments to its plastics grades to improve cleanliness to maximize their value.
Profitability has been affected by the increased price to dispose of screenings or fines, but Golen also sees opportunities in developing this market. Competition from transfer stations is another factor Revolution Recovery has had to deal with in recent months, which puts pressure on to reduce tip fees.
“New competitors are not recycling C&D and have opted to run traditional transfer stations,” observes Golen. “Also some operations that used to recycle have shut down their processing lines and opted to transfer material as well. This is a sign of the times given reduced commodities prices, tougher screenings markets and higher priced labor.”
Volumes have continued to grow at Revolution Recovery’s facilities year-over-year in 2015 and 2016, and the company is setting its sights on expansion in 2017, according to Golen.
“We hope to add more facilities in underserved markets,” he says.
VORACIOUS IN VIRGINIA
In Manassas, Virginia, Broad Run Recycling LLC is capitalizing on the mild winter. “2016 was the best we ever did, and 2017 is shaping up the same way,” says Kevin Herb, Broad Run Recycling managing partner. “January was out of the park. Our numbers are as good as in the summertime. No snow and warm weather is also a big driver.”
Herb is seeing positive activity in all directions. “The economy continues to improve. All three sectors are hitting: residential, commercial and the public sector,” he says.
Wood and concrete prices stayed stagnant in 2016, and metals doubled from the beginning to the end of the year, Herb notes. Plastic buckets or high-density polyethylene took a slight slide downward, he adds.
Pricing for materials entering the Broad Run Recycling have come up. Herb says this has to do with the Lorton Landfill in Lorton, Virginia, approaching closure. He notes the recent third-party certification of Fruitland, Maryland C&D recycler The Bennett Cos., by the Recycling Certification Institute (RCI), Sacramento, California, as a step in the right direction for Washington’s C&D recycling mandate to take effect.
“Bennett was certified last month, so we only need two other facilities to be certified for the recycling law in D.C. to be enforced, thus mandating C&D recycling,” he says.
A proposed waste conversion project in Prince William County, Virginia, could also prove to be a new end market for C&D debris in the region. The landfill put out an expression of interest to convert 400 tons of municipal solid waste into a waste conversion project producing a fuel product.
“If the facility becomes reality, it could also be a source for carbon-based materials currently not recycled in C&D residue waste to be used as a feedstock,” Herb says.
A little further south, business is booming at Richmond, Virginia-based S.B. Cox Inc.’s demolition and recycling business.
“The last half of ’16, we were extremely busy with everything both demolition and recycling,” says S. Barbee Cox III, president, S.B. Cox. “Starting off the year, we are busy, but more moderately busy in January and February demolition wise. The roll-off container business is wide open. We are seeing definite upswings in the recycling center.”
End products are moving out of the facility quickly, too. “We cannot keep crushed concrete on the ground right now. That is going out about as fast as we get the raw product in to make it,” Cox says. “Everything is going very, very well right now.”
Cox says he’s hopeful a slight dip in steel prices will be gained back in March. “We are optimistic about the scrap market,” he says.
“We are budgeting a lot of work right now. I’m looking for 2017 to be a very good year. We’ve got some very large projects coming up that we’ve been talking about starting sometime in the fall.” – S. Barbee Cox III, S.B. Cox
Wood is moving, too, though prices have not moved. Cox has some concerns about the wood market, though he notes he is not having the same problems that some areas of the Northeast and California are having with shuttered biomass facilities. About 50 percent the wood S.B. Cox processes goes toward boiler fuel and the other 50 percent is made into mulch. Virginia has several wood-burning power plants and many places to get it from.
“Every logger has a chipper and they are all processing boiler fuel,” says Cox, adding, “There is a lot of boiler fuel out there and a vast number of markets to dispose of it.”
If those boilers switch to natural gas because it is less expensive, it could cause problems, but at least for now, they are still consuming wood. “Everything else seems to be going well. It’s a pretty good report card,” Cox says.
S.B. Cox is processing around 300 tons per day at its Richmond facility where about 75 percent of the volume is from its own projects. At its other facility in Yorktown, Virginia, about 30 percent of the volume comes from S.B. Cox. The other 70 percent is from outside haulers. That facility is processing around 250 tons per day, according to Cox.
S.B. Cox spent much of 2016 on education and hospital demolition projects, and a lot of the education projects have continued into 2017. In addition, the Publix grocery store chain has entered the Richmond market and is in the midst of renovating about 10 properties. Cox says the firm is in the midst of budgeting many more projects this year.
“There is a lot more optimism around now,” Cox remarks. “We are budgeting a lot of work right now. I’m looking for 2017 to be a very good year. We’ve got some very large projects coming up that we’ve been talking about starting sometime in the fall.”
Long Island, New York-area’s Liotta Bros. Recycling, is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy more than four years after the initial storm hit. Co-owner Vic Liotta explains that the first wave of materials entering the facility in 2012 was storm debris cleanup. The second year was the building of or tearing down of buildings, and after that, bulkheads on the waterways were rebuilt.
“Now everyone is started to get their money in 2016, so every year it seems to be another reason why people are rebuilding and repairing what the damages were that far ago,” he explains.
In addition, an uptick in construction activity in general in the New York metro area is adding to the volumes. “Between those two we seem to be really busy with either construction or demolition debris,” Liotta says.
Regulations are becoming more stringent on the handling of dirt, concrete and fill, according to Liotta. “Due to the regulations getting stronger, we’ve been under a little bit of pressure to handle more material than normal because material has to be processed before it can go onto the job sites.”
Liotta says the increased scrutiny has its pluses and minuses. “It’s good that we’re getting more material, but it’s bad that we’re being so regulated that it is a little more difficult to handle it.”
Cooper Tank Recycling in nearby Brooklyn, New York, also has seen the effects of the increased scrutiny on outbound materials. Ray Kvedaras, general manager, says, volumes are strong and lines are long at the recycling facility, but the company is in the process of building a second facility which should alleviate some congestion.
“We continue to struggle with viable markets for our outbound materials,” he says. “The problematic materials such as brick, tile, porcelain, wood and screened fines are increasingly scrutinized for their contaminants and identification to demolition.”
Kvedaras adds that wood is remediable if proper processes are demonstrated, but, “It has lost favor with the downturn in the energy market.” Lower oil prices have also caused metal, fiber and plastics markets to suffer, he says.
According to Kvedaras, state and city regulatory and political agendas continue to put pressure on operators, “So we like to budget changes and improvements that are foreseen.” One such change is the recent increase in the minimum wage in New York City from $11 to $12 per hour, which he says has affected profitability and increased landfill pricing.
While Cooper Tank is nearing completion of its second facility to accommodate more materials coming in, Liotta Bros. has been able to increase its business by barging materials in and out of the facility.
The company is bringing in stone and salt and hauling out top soil by barge from the south shore of Long Island to the Rockaway Inlet. Liotta says barging helps the company stay competitive as trucking continues to be more expensive and less profitable.
“I think it is going to be a good year because they are still rebuilding the area,” he says. “Construction has been up in the area, and now we can expand a little bit on the water. It opens up our customer base where we can go quite a bit further than we had in the past, support customers on the water, receive materials and load barges on the water.”
Kvedaras expects 2017 to be on track with the previous two years as the real estate market continues to strengthen both residential and commercial construction. He also sees what he says are, “Optimistic signs of infrastructure work.”