Haiti in the aftermath – recycling
by Mike Breslin
People looked on in shock at the horrific devastation
in Haiti. The capital city of Port Au Prince looked
like it was hit by a giant wrecking ball. Whatever
has been left standing by the 7.0 earthquake and numerous
aftershocks is likely cracked beyond repair and will
have to be demolished.
Close up shots from news footage reveal low quality concrete,
cement and mud block construction. A closer look shows
little or no rebar and lightweight wire mesh reinforcement.
Port Au Prince, the largest city and principle port,
developed slowly from Colonial times on a well laid
out grid pattern, but with barely any construction
codes or standards. Because it has been a historically
poor country, building was done on the cheap. Many
structures were also weakened by earlier earthquakes,
hurricanes, civil strife and fires.
Greg Moro, operations manager for Independence Recycling
of Florida (IRF) has been working on a plan to move
two mobile crushing and screening plants to Port Au
Prince to recycle earthquake debris for use in new
construction. “I have had three groups approach us
about going down to Haiti. One is a group from Utah,
Proactive Energy Concepts, is working through retired
General Leslie Clark to put a package together to go
to Haiti for a 10-year recovery program. The first
part of their program is demolition and clean-up, providing
saltwater desalinization and wind and solar energy.
We fit into the early phase of this program and don’t
know how long we would be there. They want us to demolish
buildings and recycle them into whatever useable products
we can make, for example aggregates to be used in new
concrete for future development.”
IRF operates six receiving yards for construction and
demolition debris in Florida serviced by three mobile
crushing plants. Through the collection of concrete,
block, rock and other aggregate based materials IRF produces
recycled aggregates and road base for reused in new construction.
The crushers are moved from yard to yard to handle stockpiles
and are also moved to customer locations for major on-site
crushing and recycling projects. Depending on the economy,
IRF recycles approximately three million tons of concrete
and asphalt per year.
IRF is one of nine DiGeronimo Companies, which includes
Independence Excavating, headquartered in Cleveland,
that has 10 mobile crushers in its fleet as part of a
diversified national capability in heavy industrial construction,
site development, concrete, demolition and environmental
solutions. The DiGeronimo family is also involved in
aggregate distribution and manufacturing construction
equipment, including the fabrication of IROCK crushers.
“I would say a quarter of a percent of what we crush
is waste. We might crush 40,000 tons of concrete and
only have one or two 20-yard dumpsters of trash that
we pay to take to a landfill. All of the steel gets recycled
and 95 percent of our production is sold to the private
sector. Incoming raw material is about 50/50 private
and government. In Florida, for example, DOT instituted
a new spec to use recycled aggregate for roads, but there
are two problems. One, the engineers are not writing
the road specs, and two, there’s not enough raw material
to crush to keep up with the orders if they would start
using it. We are not nearly seeing the demolition material
in our yards as we did three years ago,” said Moro.
Moving mobile crushers to Haiti and providing all the
support logistics to keep them operational will be a
large undertaking. Each mobile crusher requires between
9 and 11 heavy-haul loads to move from one location to
another. A crusher will have to be moved from a Florida
location to a port, loaded on a roll-on-roll-off vessel,
off loaded in Port Au Prince and trucked to a work site.
Typically, it takes about a day and half to set up a
plant, but in Haiti it will undoubtedly take longer.
For concrete demolition debris, one crusher realistically
can process between 1,800 to 2,400 tons per day, and
crush asphalt at anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 tons a
day. Magnets remove ferrous metals during the screening
process, which are recycled as scrap.
“We are geared for larger jobs, 20,000 tons and up. We
are also known for delivering a product that always meets
the spec. We take material through the crusher and then
we put it through a screen plant. If a material comes
through oversized, the screen captures it and it is sent
back on a return to be re-crushed. We can screen down
to sand if required,” said Moro.
Recycling construction materials from natural disasters
seems to make economic and environmental sense, but is
rarely practiced in the United States. “In most cases
after a hurricane they are in such a hurry to get things
cleaned up that they don’t sort the material and everything
gets landfilled and you lose the concrete and other salvageable
material,” Moro lamented.
After the 2004 Hurricane Charlie hit Florida, clean-up
companies were paid by the yard, so most every yard that
went to landfills resulted in wasted material that could
have been recycled and it resulted in end of life for
several landfills. “After Charlie I was sitting here
thinking we were going to get a lot of concrete to recycle,
but they were not sorting it and most all was landfilled.
We had a high school that was damaged by Charlie. They
tore it down and brought it to us and we weighed all
the material that came in. The school got LEED credits
for bringing it to a certified recycler. Then we sold
back the crushed material to the school as road base
under asphalt parking lots, which they also earned the
high school LEED credits for using recycled material,”
Moro cited as an example of an ideal disaster recycling
Recycling construction and demolition materials on-site
in Port Au Prince makes better sense. As a remote island
nation, importing anything is highly expensive, particularly
tons of construction materials. Besides, much of the
port facilities were damaged by the earthquake and what
remains can be put to more urgent needs.
“From what I’ve heard about Haiti, they are planning
to quadrant off the city and move out the population.
Companies will go in, scrape the earth clean and build
it back up again with hurricane and earthquake resistant
structures,” said Moro.
The economics of recycling C&D material vary depending
on the nature of the project. The bigger the project,
the better the economies of scale and Port Au Prince
may prove to be huge. In the United States, recycled
aggregate usually costs less per ton than virgin.
“If virgin DOT specified No. 57 stone, ¾ inch rock, costs
$20 a ton, recycled aggregate may be $17 or $18. But
if you own the debris it’s a completely different story.
Recently they were tearing down an old football stadium
and called us in to crush on site and make two inch aggregate
to use as road base for the parking lot. Doing it that
way on-site is much faster and cheaper than buying virgin,”
In Florida, IRF routinely takes concrete highway and
house slabs and large chunks from bridge demolition which
contains large aggregate and crushes it back into smaller
aggregates and road base. “After looking at the concrete
they have in Haiti, you don’t see a lot of aggregate.
A lot of it looks like small, pebbly stuff which is very
well suited to sidewalks, house slabs and many other
building applications that use pump mix. We can crush
it down to any size. They will have to decide what they
want to use it for,” said Moro.
For Haiti, IRF is planning on bringing two complete crusher
packages including screen plants, loaders and excavators
with hammers and densifiers. IRF was told to bring experienced
crews to get the plants up and running quickly. The plan
is to eventually cross-train Haitians to do some of the
work. At first Haitians will do more of the manual labor
like picking debris not wanted in the crusher, but some
Haitians may be trained as equipment operators.
“If we go to Haiti, the biggest challenge is we would
have to be completely self-sustaining. We’d have to supply
our own housing and all the resources to support our
people and our equipment,” Moro said.