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Picking and choosing: many factors weigh into a recycler's choices in sorting equipment.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it can be a major headache for recyclers trying to sort through the diverse assortment of materials that make up mixed construction and demolition debris.

"That's the problem with C&D," says Bill Garr, sales-project manager for Krause Manufacturing/CP Manufacturing of Bellingham, Wash. "On any given day it changes completely."

This diversity makes setting up the ideal sorting system particularly challenging. In fact, if recyclers of mixed C&D and their equipment suppliers have learned one thing over the last 10 years of installing sorting systems, it's that it can be very easy to do wrong, says Scott Jable, Midwest sales manager for Lubo USA LLC, Stamford, Conn. "It's easy to lose money by not doing it correctly."


Jable says paying close attention to markets is the first step in doing it right.


C&D debris may come into a facility a jumbled mess, but it contains some incredibly valuable commodities.

Cardboard is one of the easiest items to collect along with one of the most valuable, Garr says. "In new construction, everything comes in cardboard," he says.

Wood makes up a large majority of the material stream and is also a priority material for C&D recyclers. Wood can be salvaged for a variety of end-use markets, including feedstock for wood-burning power plants and composting.


Next on the scale of value is rock such as concrete, which can be crushed and reused.

"Metals are also right up there," Garr adds." Right now, scrap metal is of high value." Garr points specifically to nonferrous scrap, like copper wire. "You don't get much of it, but it doesn't take much to make money."

Plastic is a growing market for C&D recyclers, according to Garr. Recyclers typically sort and collect a variety of plastics from their mixed material stream and sell them as mixed plastics to a plastics recycler. Plastic film--a very high-grade plastic--and PVC pipe, often used in plumbing systems, are among the most common to turn up in mixed C&D, Garr says.

Recyclers of mixed C&D find that the end markets available to them vary greatly depending on the region of the country in which they're operating. Garr says while OCC and metals are pretty much solid markets no matter where a recycler is located, other niche markets depend more on geography. "The fact is that every C&D recycler has to rely on the local markets. It's not like paper and everything else that get shipped all over the world. Wood depends on where you're located. Sheet rock and carpet have very good markets, but you have to be located close or have enough quantity to make it worthwhile.

The same rule applies to markets for C&D fines, he says. "The fines have a market, but you have to have a landfill that will take those fines as ADC. Not everybody has that avenue."

Regional differences and requirements can make finding a market for fines challenging, according to Jable. Acceptable size varies, he says, as do other environmental regulation requirements. "Do you need a 1/4-inch minus? A 2-inch minus? Do you need to pass a burn test?" he asks. "Fines can be one of the most difficult things to find a home for."

Not having target markets planned ahead of system installation is one of the biggest mistakes Jable sees recyclers make. "Markets determine what your product is going to look like," he says. "You can create great piles of material, but if you don't have markets, you have nowhere to go with it."

On the flip side, for every high-value commodity a recycler aims to coax from the mixed material stream, there is a contaminant to watch out for, which is where sorting systems go to wore


Sheet rock can be a contaminant, as can treated wood and any building materials containing asbestos, Garr says. Materials containing lead-based paint are also downstream dangers.

Gypsum is also on many recyclers' watch lists because of concern over generation of H2S gas, says Steve Miller, president of Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) of Eugene, Ore.

Since every recycler's end markets are different, individual sorting needs are different, too. But no matter what the market, Garr sees some of the same common mistakes when setting up a sorting system.

He says the No. 1 mistake he sees is not getting a consistent flow of material to the sorters. "C&D is a very bulky mass, and the biggest secret is loading the system consistently," he says.

Recyclers also sometimes make the mistake of buying a machine that's too small for their operation. "Make sure you have a big enough machine to match the throughput you're going to put through it," he says.

Miller says some recyclers underestimate how tough the C&D business is on equipment. "[Recyclers] generally underestimate the abrasive and rough nature of the material. This material is a really harsh environment to work in," he says. "It's a tough environment to work in, and you need to design the facility with that in mind."

As the equipment used to sort mixed C&D grows more sophisticated, the industry itself is also undergoing shifts. "The whole area of C&D has just become a more prominent subject," says Miller. These changes have effected what recyclers are looking for in sorting equipment, he adds. "State-of-the-art used to be an infeed conveyor and then a long sort belt with guys picking. Today, customers are looking for more automated solutions with more throughput and lower levels of labor."

For instance, the growing popularity of green building has lead to increased interest in C&D sorting systems, Garr says. "It becomes more practical to set up a system because there's more money involved," he says. "There's gold in that box the value in there, the wood itself. It's a very lucrative business."

X-Ray Technology

Automated sorting technology is not limited to the plastic containers and paper found in typical municipal recycling streams. Some companies are applying this technology to the C&D industry as well.

Based in Austin, Texas, Austin AI Inc. manufactures Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometric equipment, and has introduced a product designed to sort out wood.

According to the company's Web site, the QXR-W Treated Wood Sorting & Separating System is an automated system that rapidly and accurately sorts and separates hazardous wood scrap from clean recyclable wood based on its chemical composition. Based on Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence (EDXRF) technology, the QXR-W system features a high accuracy of separation (97 percent and above) for removal of HazMat, CCA bearing wood from clean wood.

The author is associate editor of C&DR and can be contacted at
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Author:Gubeno, Jackie
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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