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A new road: RPEI of Peru, Ind., takes a different path to C&D recycling success.

Finding the niche. That has been the secret to success for Recycling & Processing Equipment Inc. (RPEI), a contract grinding company and equipment distributor.

"If you are going to do what everybody else does, how successful can you be?" asks Gary Davis, general manager of the Peru, Ind.-based company. "We want to do something nobody else is doing. Then we can establish the market. We want to be in the forefront of things, not in the back."

To that end, the company does process wood and other everyday infeed materials, as any other contract grinder would. But RPEI specializes in recycling asphalt shingles, gypsum, and even more offbeat items, such as animal carcasses for composting. The company also has entered the contract crushing market and is trying to expand that sector.


Bur grinding and selling grinders is how Mark Bowyer, owner of RPEI, cut his teeth in the business, starting in 1989.

He bought his first unit, a Rexworks (now Terex) Maxigrind to service a large demolition job in nearby Kokomo, Ind. The contractor wanted volume reduction in order to ship the demolition material more efficiently to the landfill.

Somone saw the unit working, thought it was a great idea, so Bower sold it to him and bought a second Maxigrinder.

The same thing happened at the next job he placed the grinder on. Then Rexworks approached him because he had already sold more than the current dealer in the state, and the equipment manufacturer wanted him to handle its grinder sales in the territory. By the time RPEI was installing its third grinder, Davis had been hired and has been with the company ever since.

Today, RPEI's contract grinding business has done work virtually all over the country, according to Davis, but primarily stays east of the Mississippi River. "We have worked a lot from Cranston, R.I., to Key West, Fla.," Davis says. But what the company does on those jobs has been evolving, he adds.


It used to be that a lot of the grinding work was only for volume reduction, and sometimes some of the brick and block would be used to fill in a basement or help bring the site to grade. "But from the late 1990s to now, we are usually grinding [to make] an end product."

About 90 percent of the revenue RPEI receives comes from contract grinding. That means the end product RPEI is making is usually not its own, if only because the grinders are working so far from home and it can he difficult to find a local market for the material, says Davis.

Wood has been the bread-and-butter material for the company for all these years, both grinding for others and at the company's site in rural Peru. "We do a lot of mulch products now," Davis says. "With our roll-off business, we bring a lot of wood into our site. A lot of it is pallets and white wood from a truss factory, out of which we make an inch-minus animal bedding or some kind of mulch. There are no cogeneration plants near enough to us to justify making burn fuel."

To this day wood remains a major component of RPEI's recycling mix. But so many companies began recycling wood that Bower, who says he likes challenges, began looking for newer markets. "In 1996 we ground our first asphalt shingle," Bower says. "We want to pursue shingle grinding more. We drink there is a business opportunity there."

Davis points out that only 5 percent of the mix for asphalt is the usual specification for asphalt shingles use in hot mix, and that limits recycled shingle use in that market. "We want to align ourselves with innovators around the country who are trying to go beyond hot mix," Davis says. "They have other uses for the material, such as road sealers, roof sealants and other added-value products."

Davis believes that the tremendous amount of shingle scrap out there means there is a huge need for these new markers. He thinks that many current shingle recyclers are processing only one-quarter of the shingles they receive, leaving a lot of potential lying on the ground at their sites.

The new markets RPEI wants to work to develop, such as uses in patio blocks, bricks and sound deadeners, can be shown to potential customers as places to divert the shingles. "We then will work with the Construction Materials Recycling Association to promote this," says Davis.


Another market RPEI is bullish on is gypsum processing. The company has ground material in Fort Dodge, Iowa, for wallboard manufacturers there so the material could be used in new drywall. "The paper would just dissolve, we were grinding so fine," says Davis. RPEI also has ground gypsum for land application.

Whatever the end product, Davis says grinding gypsum is easy on the grinder but a dusty job. "We have used a lot of water to control the dust, but that only gets about 50 percent of it," says Davis. "It all depends on the state of the gypsum. If it is in big piles, stacked up in sheets, it will be pretty dusty. If it has been laid out thinner than that and outside where it received some rain, it will be gypsum mud. The latter won't raise dust, but is difficult to process, and you can't do much with it."

What Davis has learned is to mix the two types so that you can process the one while helping to control the dust on the other. "That way you can get everything through," he says.

Probably the oddest material to be run through RPEI's grinders was the time one was used to grind up dead livestock for use in composting. "Nobody else wanted to do that," Davis says. "After I took the job, I had to think for four or five days about how I was going to tell the operators."


A new line of business for RPEI is contract crushing. For years RPEI processed porcelain manufacturers defects at a bathroom and kitchen fixture company in Kokomo. The toilets, sinks and the like are used for three products: pipe bedding, fill and as a decorative stone. Then an opportunity arose to recycle concrete pipe. RPEI asked a few vendors of mobile crushers to demonstrate how their equipment could handle the wire-mesh-laden pipe, and Bower says only Crushtek was able to do the job. So, he bought one of the track-mounted, 36-ton, Supertrack units. Davis likes the impactor machine because it "is narrow enough and light enough that you can just zip on down the road."

Bowyer has since become a distributor for Crushtek and currently owns and operates the manufacturer's biggest model, the Startrack. Weighing in at 53 tons, the crusher has to be moved on 10 to 12 axles, "and not a lot of trucking companies have 10- to 12-axle vehicles," he says. Davis lauds the higher production the bigger unit gives.

RPEI's next step could well be in the mixed C&D processing market. Currently the company is seeking a processing permit to start up a dump-and-pick operation at a transfer station in Kokomo. "We already know we can process about 90 percent of what we receive in the roll-offs there," says Davis. The company plans to pull the aggregate, steel, cardboard, wood and possibly shingles. It can sell the wood and OCC, and process the rest.

It is that kind of thinking that is how RPEI seems to operate. As Davis puts it, "We need to keep moving, be creative, do more things. I mean, how many people in this country go out and think about grinding livestock?


The machines Recycling and Processing Equipment Inc. (RPEI), Peru, Ind., has used to grind various materials have changed over the years. RPEI still uses a Rexworks Megagrind, mostly for wood and gypsum applications.

The 800-horsepower machine, the only one left from when the company had three of them when it was a dealer for the manufacturer, is not the correct machine to use for asphalt shingle recycling, RPEI General Manager Gary Davis believes. The company started out using a Rexworks Maxigrind on shingles, but Davis says it couldn't compete. "We got away from using that because we always had to take a screening plant with us," he remarks. "By the time we put a $150,000 screening plant behind the grinder and hauled it to the site, the cost was too high, and we were not competitive in the marketplace."

Instead, RPEI relies on a Bandit 3680, a 565-horsepower unit. A grinder that could do the shingles in one pass was sought, and while Davis says many manufacturers tried to prove to him they could do it, Bandit was the only one that did. "Heat is always generated when processing shingles," Davis says. "But with the Bandit, you grind far enough away from the head itself so that there is plenty of room for air and movement. With other grinders, with the bits 2-1/2 inches to 3 inches away from the drum, there is no place for air to flow."

That being said, because of the abusive nature of shingle recycling, RPEI heavily modifies a factory-supplied model to better fit its needs. "We bring it in and put all of our own little improvements on it," Davis says, RPEI has developed several proprietary bits and holders to process the shingles.

Even with all that engineering help, RPEI has come to expect the Bandit to only last a year or so in the tough shingle processing environment. "We try to run them about 1,000 to 1,200 hours, then sell them and get a new one for shingles," says Davis. "That way we always have new equipment for our contract operators to use for shingle grinding. So we sell them to a wood grinder, and they will last him forever because the machines have the hard cases on them, and we have gone in and redone the whole rotor before we sold it."

The author is associate publisher of Construction & Demolition Recycling and executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association. He can be contacted at
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Recycling and Processing Equipment Inc.; Construction and Demolition
Author:Turley, William
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Company Profile
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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