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Theory of evolution: New England Recycling evolves to match an increasingly sophisticated mixed C&D recycling industry.

New England Recycling (NER) is proof of evolution in the C&D recycling industry.

The story of the Taunton, Mass.-based company and company principal Gil Lopes is one seen before in the industry, but in its latest incarnation as a mixed C&D recycling plant the company has tried to develop an operation that will allow as much value-added product to be manufactured as possible.

New England Recycling encompasses or is affiliated with operations that recycle aggregates, mixed C&D and wood debris, including stumps. They are all located within 15 minutes of each other in southeastern Massachusetts. As of July 2006 Massachusetts instituted a state-wide disposal ban on the C&D materials of concrete, asphalt, brick, wood, metals and old corrugated containers (OCC). But in the late 1980s, long before that ban was even thought of, NER made efforts to recycle aggregates and tree stumps. "A little later we started in mixed C&D with a simple dump-and-pick operation," says Lopes. "It was mostly low-end stuff, and our permit allowed us to work outside."

But shortly before that permit came up for renewal a few years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) told NER that the renewal process would go a lot smoother if the company agreed to move its operations under a roof. Lopes says he had little problem with that as he was looking to improve the efficiency of the operation, including putting in an upgraded sorting and processing line.

He also wanted to find ways to change NER's product mix away as much as possible from alternative daily cover products to added-value products. For that, a higher-tech sorting system would be needed.


Currently, CMRA member NER is separating out ferrous and nonferrous metals, high-grade or "A" wood, "B" wood, aggregate, OCC, Nos. 1 and 2 plastics, gypsum and fines. Soon NER also will be making a product out of its recovered post-consumer asphalt shingles.

The plastics and OCC are baled and sent to another recycling facility for further processing. "We get about 50 to 60 tons per month of OCC, and that baler paid for itself in no time," Lopes says. The aggregate is shipped to NER's recycling plant at a sand and gravel operation also owned by Lopes, where it is processed into base products for commercial and private projects. This is because despite Massachusetts' bans on aggregates from going into its landfills, the state does not use the finished recycled product for its public roads. It is the same for many cities and towns, says Lopes.

The stationary aggregate recycling plant is a Cedarapids 3054 jaw crusher with a 54-inch cone as the secondary unit. A single-deck 6- x 20-foot screen separates the two crushers and sizes the material into 1-1/2-inch minus. The company also has an Eagle 1200 portable impactor plant that is used on demolition sites to process concrete and asphalt rubble.

The operation that New England Recycling is using to sort and process C&D material opened early in 2006 and is located on approximately 16 acres, five acres of which is devoted to the recycling operation.

The entire facility is enclosed, with the tipping floor made of 10-inch concrete with a hardener on the top layer. A Cat 325 excavator with a NPK grapple not only feeds the inclined belt to the first screen, a trommel, but also sorts out large bulky items.

Trommel screens have been used in C&D recycling operations for many years. Some new C&D recycling operations avoid them because of wear concerns, but Paul Corriera, NER's plant manager, likes the 30-foot-long by 8-foot diameter, eight-sided trommel "because it does a better job of getting the fines out. It has flat punch plates. If one of them is damaged, it takes only five minutes to replace the screen. This isn't your typical trommel screen," he says. The unit removes the 3/8-inch fines and is made heavy duty to survive in the harsh C&D environment.

The next stage is the sorting line, which has six bins with a reversible conveyor for the wood under the mezzanine on both sides to allow a higher efficiency in pulling out the wood. This allows each picker to pick wood along with the recyclable material.

As many as 20 pickers work to remove the concrete, asphalt, the A and B wood, metals and OCC. The reversible conveyer belt gives the company the flexibility to pick different materials and put them in different bins, according to Lopes. Corriera adds that the reversible belt means that when a part of the system breaks down, the sorting can continue as the material is diverted to a new station.


In line with the system are two grinders, which, like the rest of the sorting system except for the four magnets on the line, is from Continental Biomass Industries (CBI). The overs from the picking line go into a 4872 Grizzly mill purchased from CBI used with more than 28,000 hours on it. CBI removed the diesel engine and changed over to a 600-hp electric motor. A second grinder, a CBI 36 x 36, is used to process recovered wood into products.

The wood products include a fuel product that is shipped to CMRA member Boralex's power plants. These types of outlets are key to success in the C&D recycling industry, Lopes says. "Without it, the recycling business would really dry up. I don't know what you would do with the wood otherwise except to landfill it, and that is banned in Massachusetts."

Lopes expects Boralex to be around for some time, and perhaps expand. "In four or five years we hope to see other companies accepting this wood as a fuel," he says.

But he is concerned that some other nearby states could be looking to emulate the Massachusetts ban. "Boralex is the only company around now using this wood," says Lopes. "The states should see more plants that use this wood come on line before they implement their own bans. The states will need to support any proposed power plants that will use C&D wood."

New England Recycling has a loading system for the wood fuel product, using a raised auger system that loads a truck trailer evenly back to front with virtually no oversight.

Currently about 15 percent of the 550 tons per day of mixed C&D that is permitted to enter NER's plant is used as alternative daily cover (ADC), and another 25 percent that is the residuals coming off the end of the line are ground and often used as a shaping and grading material within a landfill environment. This helps add up to a 91 percent recycling rate.

But ADC is a dying market, Lopes believes, "We eventually will have to rail that material out of state to get rid of it. The tipping rates for these types of facilities will have to adjust themselves to allow for the costs."

In anticipation of that situation and for competitive reasons, NER has explored other value-added projects for its wood. The company is in the middle of a three-year project to show that it can separate its "A," or clean wood, from the "B" wood in order to get a beneficial use determination (BUD) to use the product in added-value applications, such as mulch, animal bedding and more.

Soon, the A wood will be utilized as a wood pellet fuel for residential and commercial applications. Most of these NER will make itself, "so we have to have good internal quality control because we want to provide a good product," Lopes says.


Trucks from as far as 45 miles away dump at the facility, and half of those trucks are from a Lopes-owned hauling company that specializes in moving C&D material. When the company's trucks go to Maine to deliver wood fuel product, they pick up bark from the loading operations up there to bring back to NER's mulch operations, saving on transportation costs and giving the company a little edge.

Like all mixed C&D recyclers in the state, NER has to remove as much drywall as possible from its incoming material. But even clean construction gypsum is a difficult material to recycle in Massachusetts, and NER has no BUD to use it in its composting or dirt operations. Only the new wallboard could be used for that, as the demolition gypsum is far more difficult to remove from the waste stream.

Lopes is in favor of having wallboard abated at demolition sites for a couple of reasons. It would clean up all the recyclers' products, and it would make the ADC a more viable product because the potential for generation of H2S gas in a landfill environment would be greatly reduced with the gypsum out of there.

And even though NER is trying to get out of the ADC business as much as possible, Lopes, like many C&D recyclers, says there will always be a need for the industry to have that outlet for its fines products. Turning incoming material into products with viable markets is all in a day's work for Gil Lopes and New England Recycling.

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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Author:Turley, William
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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