The ideal time and place to start a recycling business is different for everyone, though not many would have considered 2008 or Oakland, California, to be the right place at the right time. For Josh Fookes, however, it was.

Commercial Waste & Recycling LLC is the first and largest facility permitted by the state of California to process construction & demolition (C&D) debris within the city of Oakland. The facility is located in Oakland, just north of the Oakland Coliseum. Currently, it is the only facility permitted to accept green waste material in the city.

Josh Fookes, president and founder of the company, had been a commercial real estate appraiser and broker and didn’t see a bright future in that market. “In 2008, when my wife and I started the company, I came out of the real estate world, which was hit first. This opportunity came along so we took it.” He adds, “It has been good to us.”

According to Fookes, unlike parts further north in California, the Bay Area provides a political climate that very much favors C&D recycling. Regulations in the region demand that recycling occurs with construction materials.

Fookes got the idea for the company from a family member who had been in a similar type of business. He refined the concept, got his wife to go along with him, and as he says, “started this operation from scratch.”


The entire operation is situated on a 1.1-acre site, which means that materials that come in have to be processed immediately so they can be moved out.

“Because of our limited size, we are very dependent on our equipment. It has to operate when we need it because we don’t have room to stockpile inbound and/or out bound materials,” Fookes says.

Describing the process, Fookes explains that the material comes in and is floor sorted into the appropriate bunkers or bins. From there, some gets shredded or is used to create an alternative daily cover (ADC) for placement on the surface of the active face of a municipal solid waste landfills. Green waste and clean wood is transferred across the yard where it gets shredded for biofuel or biomass for burning in a power generation plant.

Commercial Waste & Recycling is a receiving facility and does not do any collections. The customers bring in all the material that is processed. Processed materials are removed by the operations using them.

The operation relies on a Komptech Crambo 5000, which is a slow-speed, high-torque shredder with an interchangeable screen system that provides specific size reduction of materials at maximum throughput. With this shredder, Commercial Waste & Recycling can process all of its materials on site. This speeds the processing by eliminating off-sight travel.

Fookes says that the slow-speed shredder minimizes the contamination usually associated with high-speed shredders, and while this may not reduce the maintenance requirements, it does save on downtime. In the case of this operation, downtime must be kept to a minimum for all the equipment.

The facility is open to the public Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is closed on Sunday. Operationally, the crew may have to come in as early as 3 a.m. to load and weigh outbound material.

“The yard has to be cleared when we open at to start receiving the day’s materials,” explains Fookes. “Some days the crews have to come in a littler earlier; it all depends on the volume of material we received and processed the day before.”

Typically, the green waste material is processed during the day and is completed by the time operation closes. At that time crews reset the shredder and get it ready to process the C&D material. All the material is processed, which can take until 10 or 11 p.m.


Operating equipment used to process the volumes of material include the company’s most recent addition, a Liebherr L542 wheel loader with waste package. The Liebherr weighs 29,540 pounds, has a tipping load rating of 22,490 pounds and engine output of 161 horsepower. This machine is equipped with a 5-cubic-yard roll-out bucket and waste handling package.

Other equipment includes two skid steer loaders, which are used to push the smaller loads around so the bigger wheel loaders don’t get in the areas where there is more customer activity.

Although the new Liebherr wheel loader is the primary material handler machine, the company does have another it intends to replace due to performance issues.

“We can’t afford excessive downtime” Fookes says. “We also have two other older wheel loaders at our other operation and use them as backup when necessary. We’ve tried just about everything.”

The problems Commercial Waste & Recycling was having with its loaders is what prompted Fookes to look at the Liebherr. “It’s been a lot more reliable, especially on the fuel economy and the way they’ve installed the guarding on the trash package.”

Fookes says wheel loader operators have noticed it has more power than previous loaders, “With the hydrostatic drive it’s noticeably more powerful, especially when pushing loads,” he says.

A shorter turning radius also has been ideal for the limited space of the facility. “My site supervisor says that he can load a truck in a much smaller space than when he was uses our other machines,” Fookes says.

Due to the limited space at the site, the facility needs a machine that is powerful, agile, maneuverable and has the capacity to load the trucks efficiently. The company tried larger machines but they proved to be too big to work the site. Smaller machines that would fit the site weren’t productive and were seriously overworked.

“It’s not just the machine and the way it fits our site,” Fookes explains. “It’s the thought that went into the way they designed the controls for us.”

The controls are designed for operators who are on the machine all day. For example, with the rollout for the bucket, it’s not done with a third lever off to the side. It’s done the with the thumb.

Fookes operates the machines before his purchases so he can give the operators a heads-up on what to expect.

He says everyone likes the way the L542 is set up—controls, visibility and comfort as well as the guarding, the hydraulics and the underside. The machine also is protected from unexpected damage that can easily be caused when handling and processing construction and demolition debris.

The L542 wheel loaders are used to move the larger loads of material around, feed the shredder and load all the trucks.


Commercial Waste & Recycling started with three employees and has grown to its current level of 33. Six operators and four full-time mechanics who are responsible for the maintenance of the operating equipment as well as the shredder. Bejac Corp. is the dealer that put Fookes in the operator’s seat of the Liebherr L542 wheel loader.

“We had purchased other equipment from them and they knew we were looking for a new wheel loader,” says Fookes. “The president of Bejac told me that if I could wait a couple of months he’d probably have something that would meet my needs.”

It was during this time that Bejac was in the process of becoming a Liebherr dealer. Once the deal was completed, the dealer let Fookes demo the Liebherr wheel loader.

“We talked about different buckets but ended up with a machine that was designed and sized to fit our operation,” Fookes says.

As equipment wears out at other operations owned by Fookes, Asphalt Shingle Recyclers LLC and Oakland Firewood & Landscape Supply, he has gone to Bejac to see what other Liebherr machines are available.

The article was submitted by Liebherr Construction Equipment Co., Newport News, Virginia. More information is available at