Concrete and asphalt are recycled throughout the United States, but the South can stake a strong claim as the preeminent region for producing aggregate.
Each of the top five companies on Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine’s updated list of the 20 largest recycled aggregates producers in the United States operates partly or exclusively in the South.
The state of Texas in particular boasts three of the top five entrants on the list. A booming economy, a supportive department of transportation and the efforts of committed entrepreneurs have all helped the Lone Star State live up to its reputation as a leader in the space.
Cost-effective and green to boot
The construction of highways, bridges, and commercial and industrial buildings calls for a considerable amount of concrete and asphalt, as well as the aggregate stone products needed to make them.
Business owners of all types understand that time is money, but contractors requiring bulk amounts of building materials also realize that distance is money.
That latter part of the equation has helped recycled aggregates producers in Texas find homes for their materials, as most active construction zones may be dozens or hundreds of miles from the nearest quarry—or the nearest landfill.
In talking about his company’s multilocation strategy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Brown commented, “From a trucking standpoint, multiple locations provide a major advantage. Contractors bringing materials to us have shorter hauls compared to when we had one or two yards, and this holds true on the other end for companies picking up the products we make. Reduced transportation costs help their bottom lines, and they are getting quality products that are as good as, or better than, virgin materials from a quarry.”
On its website, SCC describes itself as “a Texas-based company that uses practical and inexpensive methods to produce recycled concrete and asphalt for a variety of construction projects throughout Southeast Texas. Our recycling replaces the need for rock, which must be trucked into the Houston area from distant quarries, making the use of our recycled products efficient and cost-effective for a range of projects.”
A recycling-friendly Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been another shot in the arm to secondary aggregates producers in that region. TxDOT says it “reclaims and reuses about 1 million tons of recycled concrete pavement (RCA) annually.”
While Texas may lead the way in overall aggregates production, support for, or investments in, concrete and asphalt recycling are by no means restricted to the state, with Fortune 500-scale firms now competing with entrepreneurs to take part in the sector.
Vulcan Materials Co., Birmingham, Alabama, No. 2 on our list, had revenue of nearly $4.3 billion in 2018 and describes itself as the largest aggregates producer in the United States.
The firm has some 200 operating locations in 20 different states. Many of these are quarries, but the company also has 17 locations listed as focusing exclusively or predominantly on producing recycled aggregates and 49 total that host some recycling activity, according to Vulcan Materials’ Economic Analysis Manager Baron Worthington.
The company cites the cost-effective and convenient nature of using recycled aggregates as one reason behind its recycling sector investments, noting on its website, “Recycling practices are employed where specifications and market conditions allow and the operation can support the activity.”
As a publicly traded firm attempting to appeal to institutional and individual investors, Vulcan also touts the sustainability aspects of recycling concrete and asphalt. “Our ongoing efforts to reduce emissions and recycle materials are vital to the environment, to our neighbors in local communities across the land and to our bottom line,” the company notes on its website.
Larger yet than Vulcan Materials is Switzerland-based LafargeHolcim. The multinational firm focuses on cement and ready-mix concrete production, but it too has invested in or acquired aggregates recycling assets.
LafargeHolcim cites the desire to “multiply by four our volume of recycled aggregates from construction and demolition waste and reclaimed asphalt paving” as one of its two main circular economy targets to reach by 2030.
The company also says it wants to “use 80 million metric tons per year of resources made from waste in our operations.” In addition to producing secondary aggregates, this can include using scrap tires and other discarded materials as fuel in cement kilns.
The scale of LafargeHolcim, as a company with $26 billion in annual revenue and more than 350 locations in the United States alone, means that if it has any presence at all in concrete and asphalt recycling, it is likely to be a noticeable one.
Wearing of the green
Government support, or lack thereof, for concrete and asphalt recycling can swing depending on the people or party in power and their legislative priorities.
A seemingly more permanent influence affecting the industry in the past several years has been the adoption of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards by developers and property owners.
The LEED scorecard is organized and updated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and focuses on a variety of building practices, including site selection, energy and water use.
The LEED 4.0 checklist and scoring system, which helps determine how energy-efficient a project is, has 13 out of a total possible 110 points dedicated to materials and resources.
According to the Skokie, Illinois-based Portland Cement Association (PCA), credit No. 4 in the LEED Materials and Resources section can be earned when “a minimum of 25 percent of building materials that contain in aggregate a minimum weighted average of 20 percent post-consumer recycled content material, or a minimum weighted average of 40 percent post-industrial recycled content material” is used.
Adds the PCA, “Using recycled aggregates instead of extracted aggregates would qualify as post-consumer. Because concrete is an assembly, its recycled content should be calculated as a percentage of recycled material on a mass basis.”
With the USGBC claiming that some “2.2 million square feet is LEED certified every day, with more than 90,000 projects using LEED,” any tie-in between green building and concrete recycling is likely to produce benefits for the 20 companies on this list and those striving to join them.