Concrete and aggregate companies across the United States are experiencing different challenges and seizing different opportunities. While markets may vary from one region to the next, one thing is certain: demand for recycled aggregate is increasing just about everywhere.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 5 percent increase construction aggregate in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same quarter in 2014. The estimated production for consumption of construction aggregates in the third quarter of 2015 increased in six of nine geographic divisions compared with that sold or used in the third quarter of 2014. Texas, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio lead in production for consumption. (See the third quarter breakdown by region).
Global building materials manufacturer LafargeHolcim attributed growth in concrete and aggregate consumption in part to the U.S. housing market. The logic is simple: more people started to buy houses or build houses and needed concrete. The harsh weather of early 2015 also increased cement volumes.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND FACTORS
Independence Recycling of Florida Inc., Punta Gorda, Florida, is having difficulty keeping up with demand.
“This is the first time in years our yards have run out of raw material,” says Greg Moro, general manager of the Independence Excavating subsidiary. “In the past, we were able to stockpile, then crush, then sell, but now we have to crush the entire pile and sell it.”
The housing market has affected the company’s business, Moro says, especially since a retirees make up a large segment of the population.
“We’re seeing developments being built again after the housing market crash,” Moro says. “Golf courses are coming in and the winter season was pretty good for part timers to come here and get out of the weather.”
With golf courses, housing developments and the ever-growing need for shopping centers comes the need for sidewalks and foundations. That, Moro says, is where companies like Independence Recycling of Florida come in.
“What follows residential areas, in terms of construction, is the shopping areas,” Moro says. “We’re starting to see the infrastructure to support the people moving to Florida—we’re starting to see Dollar Generals and ALDIs pop up and those are the types of companies who we sell our road base to for parking lots.”
Unlike Florida, supply and demand seem to match evenly in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Paving recycled more than a million tons of materials last year alone, says its president, Jay Smith. Curbs, gutters, sidewalks, runways and bridges are the crusher culprits.
“We try to put a little bit of aggregate in everything,” Smith says. “We’ve done it for at least 20 years.”
In 2006, production at Las Vegas Paving rose to 2 million tons of aggregate for the year, making it one of the largest aggregate suppliers in Nevada.
Las Vegas Paving deals with a range of projects, including mass grading of private home and developments, producing and placing asphalt for surface streets and highways, aggregate crushing and material supply and runways for international airports.
Smith says the company’s use of recycled concrete and aggregates allows for lower bids and cheaper operations.
ROAD RULES MATTER
To the East, in Richmond, Virginia, S. Barbee Cox, president of SB Cox, struggles with an expansive array of virgin material and the fact that recycled aggregates aren’t approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for use in roads. Despite these factors that can negatively affect business, he says conditions are improving.
“It’s not flying out of the gate by any means, but it’s a lot better than it was two years ago,” he remarks.
SB Cox opened the first construction and demolition (C&D) materials recovery facility (MRF) in central Virginia. The company now runs two facilities—one in Richmond and the other in Yorktown, Virginia.
The Yorktown facility sells 21B and #3 concrete while a roadbase material and a 3-inch-minus clean stone is available in Richmond. The Yorktown facility consistently averages a 77 to 82 percent recycling rate, according to Cox.
Much of the recycled aggregate and concrete from S.B. Cox operations are used for landfill roads and construction entrances. Cox is currently trying to build the company’s supply back up.
“I had an 80,000-ton job last year that wiped out all the feedstock and we’re trying to build it back up,” he says.
Lack of acceptance for recycled aggregate causes Cox and his company to travel down a what he says is a “narrow road,” but he sees a bright future when it comes to the younger generation.
“Young people pay more attention to recycled material,” he says. “[They] want that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) point or that green content.”
SB Cox offers special LEED reporting from both facilities, which allows projects who want to become LEED certified to cite the U.S. Green Building Council member as a provider of concrete and aggregate.
While VDOT does not offer a helping hand to concrete and aggregate recycling facilities, the Texas DOT (TXDOT) has increased demand for recycled materials through two bond referendums.
Cherry Crushed Concrete, based in Houston, sold more than 3 million tons of recycled aggregates and stabilized materials in 2015. This, says Leonard Cherry, is because of the cost that is saved using recycled materials.
“We offer a turn-key service in not only recycled concrete and asphalt products, but stabilized materials as well, in more than 10 locations throughout Houston,” he says.
Cherry Crushed Concrete offers multiple grades of recycled concrete, ranging from Flex based (TXDOT 247) to 12-inch-by-18inch rip rap. It also offers specialty recycled aggregate such as milled asphalt, rip rap grade 2, crushed asphalt and fractionated asphalt.
Cherry predicts, “As knowledge of the use in alternative materials, such as recycled aggregate, continues to grow, we believe that demand will continue to grow.”
Cherry Crushed Concrete recycles more than 2 million tons of concrete and asphalt per year. The company also recycles residential composition asphalt shingles and tires. Its materials are usually used in road and highway projects and sometimes used in roadbed and drainage projects.
In Ohio, Cleveland area company Independence Excavating, is experiencing a different set of challenges. While finding additional end markets is a goal of the company, Operations Manager Ron Brocco says he has concerns about the price of equipment.
As reported in Construction & Demolition Recycling’s (C&DR’s) 2016 Demolition Supplement, in some instances, he says, the price for equipment has doubled.
Independence Excavating takes on multistate jobs that range from a few thousand tons of processing to several million. The company oversees major commercial, industrial and highway projects. It topped C&DR’s “Largest Recycled Aggregate Producers” list in 2015, reporting it processed 4 million tons of material in 2014—a 14 percent jump from 2012. In addition to its aforementioned subsidiary, Independence Excavating of Florida, firm operates several recycling yards in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The company created a “closed-loop” cycle by organizing an on-site collection area to crush materials helping “eliminate those disposal obstacles but also the import of new material,” says Brocco.
Eliminating obstacles seems to be the overall theme of aggregate companies throughout the U.S., but exactly what that obstacle is depends on the geographical location of the facility.
While each individual region seems to be dealing with its own set of challenges and opportunities, the consensus appears to be that there is no place else to go but up—with an increase in interest comes an increase in the recycling aspect of business.
“Demolition companies weren’t always part of the recycling business,” says Independence Excavating of Florida’s Moro. “But now they are.”