MARCH 2011

Massachusetts, the future of C&D recyclingClick to Enlarge
E-mail the author

“We don’t have many landfills in Massachusetts, but we do have a lot of landfill restrictions,” declared Dan Costello, president of Costello Dismantling, based in Middleboro, Massachusetts. “Instead of landfills, there is a network of construction and demolition (C&D) processing and recycling facilities, not only in Massachusetts, but around the region that have developed to meet the need of recycling C&D material.”

When it comes to landfill restrictions, Massachusetts appears to be the strictest in the United States, although many see it as enlightened environmental policy, a forerunner of America’s landfill future. “Statewide, I think we have the toughest restrictions in the country,” said Costello.

Jim Colman, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Waste Prevention for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) said, “If it’s not the strictest, I can tell you it’s among the strictest for sure, but we have not surveyed all the states to know definitively that it is.” 

Jim McQuade, regional planner within the MassDEP Bureau of Waste Prevention elaborated, “Massachusetts is the only state that has banned disposal of certain demolition and construction materials. There are counties that have landfill bans on C&D materials in states such as California, Washington and Oregon. We are the only state that has banned disposal of certain components of the C&D waste stream, statewide.”

In 2006, Massachusetts began to ban C&D materials, specifically five components – asphalt pavement, brick, concrete, cardboard, metal and wood. “Since then, working with the C&D Subcommittee, we have focused on clean gypsum wallboard. We went through public hearings last year and that process resulted in banning clean gypsum wallboard beginning July 1, 2011,” said McQuade. “We are currently working with clean gypsum wallboard recyclers and the external community to explore how we can invigorate a recycling infrastructure around renovation and demolition wallboard scrap. In tandem with the discussions on clean gypsum, the subcommittee is looking at other materials, specifically carpet and ceiling tiles.”

“That does not mean that a ban is imminent,” emphasized Coleman. It means that we are starting to have preliminary discussions. Before we would even think about a ban, we would have to have a good idea of what the recycling infrastructure would be and that it’s financially viable. We are probably talking at least two or three years before there would be any proposed ban.”

A partnering process

“There are interesting dynamics that have occurred in Massachusetts,” Costello explained. “It’s not as if these bans were implemented on the spur of the moment. There has been a process that’s been going on with the MassDEP for over eight years now. In 2002, we started talking to the regulatory people and industry groups about what materials were to be banned from landfills and how to implement it. We had a run-up of four or five years of talking and planning about implementing bans before they actually took place. So the transition was not drastic to the industries involved.”

Dan Costello played a leadership role in this public-private partnership as a member of the MassDEP Construction and Demolition Materials Subcommittee of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which is composed of approximately 160 members from government, industry, non-governmental organizations, trade associations and environmental advocates.

Costello’s company has long been one of the premier demolition contractors in the northeast, offering demolition services as well as equipment removal and salvage. His company has been widely recognized by the industry for its commitment to safety and environmentally sound deconstruction practices.

Costello is past board member of the National Demolition Association and serves on its Environmental Committee. He is a current board member of the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA) and chairman of its product specification committee. “We just finished writing specifications for using wood products as biomass fuel. We feel that is going to be a very important beneficial-use going forward.”

Since most all C&D debris is banned from landfills and boilers in Massachusetts, demolition and construction companies have limited options compared to most other states. They can export debris to out-of-state landfills, but most often transportation and tipping fees make it prohibitively expensive.

“Now we are paying less to recyclers than we would to ship out of state,” said Costello. “Landfill disposal is generally close to $100 dollars per ton, but the disposal fees at the processing plants are in the $60 to $70 dollar per ton range. It’s certainly a lot more than other parts of the country pay for landfill, but around here there’s some economic advantage. The only other option is trucking out of state, or shipping by rail. There are landfills in New Hampshire and some material goes to Ohio, but that’s generally more expensive than going to a recycler. Rail disposal is often a competitive option, but it depends on where your project is located and the relative costs to get to each landfill.”

For-profit recycling

Devens Recycling Center located Devens, Massachusetts is one of the new breed of C&D recyclers that Costello ships his demolition material to. “Devens has a beautiful, 90,000 square-foot facility all under one roof that cost about $15 million to build. They do a great job. They are among a dozen or so in the state with similar capabilities,” said Costello.

“We are one of the newest, state-of-the-art construction and demolition material processing facilities in the one of the most highly regulated jurisdictions in the country,” Judy Cohen, facility director at Devens told us.

Devens holds permits to handle both C&D and municipal solid waste (MSW) allowing the daily acceptance of 1,000 tons of C&D and 500 tons of MSW, the largest volume permit of its type in the state.

“We opened our doors in September of 2007 with the C&D permit,” said Cohen. “We pursued a MSW permit after we were opened and got it in July, ‘09 because the construction and demolition volume had slowed down due to the downturn in the economy. To survive we had to look at other waste streams and become more versatile. Our DEP requires solid waste handling facilities to provide an annual report of how much debris they take in and how much they send out. I think there are 21 different entities that do these reports, but you can’t put them all in the same category, because not all have the separating infrastructure we have.”

Devens accepts and recycles virtually all non-hazardous building materials generated from residential or commercial construction or demolition job sites as well manufacturing scrap and MSW. The company recycles debris into feedstock for secondary markets like biomass fuel, road-patch repair, landscaping materials, new cardboard, soil substitute, and new construction materials.

Devens is unique in another respect. It was founded by Kurt MacNamara, an experienced demolition contractor, so the facility was specifically configured to recycle construction debris. It was designed with the LEED projects in mind. C&D material flow is tracked from the moment it enters the facility and customers can access reporting via their web portal. Moreover, Devens assists customers in preparing project specific waste management reports.

“Recovery largely depends of the composition of the incoming load, but because this company was set up from the demo contractor’s point of view, we designed the facility to handle that type of material. On a LEEDs job, for example, with material coming off a construction site, we are typically running a 75 to 80 percent recovery rate of marketable secondary products. If we get a house cleanout with a lot of non-salvageable material like old carpeting, we may only get a 20 to 30 percent recovery,” said Cohen.

The Devens recycling process

Material is usually trucked in by roll-off containers or 100 yard trailers. Loads are weighed at a scale house both at arrival and departure. Incoming loads are monitored by security cameras and radiation detection equipment to help ensure that hazardous material is not delivered.

“If they are a regular customer, their profile is already in our computer system along with pre-negotiated rates. People who have never been here before are usually cash customers and charged our regular gate rate. We ask where they are coming from and we record that information,” Cohen explained.

All material is tipped in Devens’ building so no material is lost and all debris is contained within the structure. There are 6 bay doors, each 50 foot high, to handle all sizes of trucks and containers. “We have separate doors for C&D and MSW, and keep the streams separated by a concrete block wall,” said Cohen. “There is a rail spur inside the building which acts as a loading area for outbound shipments via both rail and over the road.

“Loads are tipped on our concrete floor. A licensed asbestos inspector goes through the pile to make sure it is clean, or segregates hazardous waste for proper disposal.”

The material is reviewed for landfill banned items, such as tires and cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Banned items are recorded and customers are charged extra for those disposals.

On the tipping floor, Bobcats are used to sort larger items such as such as lumber, metals, steel I-beams and large sheets of wallboard.

After rough sorting, the material is pushed into a feeder pile and a grapple excavator loads it onto a multi-process conveyor belt system. It has shakers and star screens that separate the material by size. Smaller debris runs over a magnet to pull out ferrous metals. A forced air de-stoner separates heavy material such as stone, asphalt, brick and concrete. Lighter material that is blown out by the de-stoner usually contains a large percentage of wood which is later ground for boiler fuel.

Larger materials go through manual picking stations with bunkers for cardboard, wood, plastics, aggregates and metals. “By the time the feedstock gets to the end of the line, anything falling off is unrecyclable residuals that are landfilled,” said Cohen.

Recovered wood is sent to a grinder, which also removes nails and other ferrous metal. Ground wood is marketed to manufacturers of particle board and used for agricultural, landscape and miscellaneous products. Much of the ground wood is transferred out of state to be used as feedstock for boilers and waste-to-energy plants. As a source separated material, MassDEP currently has a moratorium on in-state use of C&D wood as a fuel.

“We can recycle metals here, but markets are strong wherever you go. We don’t have a concrete crusher; rather we send it out to a crusher and it mostly goes for road-base. There are costs for us associated with concrete disposal, but nowhere near the landfill tipping costs.”

“Massachusetts is great about thoroughly regulating what does and does not go into state permitted landfills. However, there is a significant void of markets for C&D materials. So the processors are caught in the middle because we can’t landfill the material here and there are no markets in the state,” Cohen lamented.

MassDEP master plan

Jim Coleman at MassDEP outlined the state’s long term strategy: “Since 1990, our overall waste management plan has been reduce, reuse and recycle. We want to reduce waste for a whole host of reasons, economic and environmental. Whether we had a lot of landfills or not so many, we would still be taking that approach. Clearly, our draft solid-waste master plan that we put out for public hearings last summer recognizes the fact that there is less disposal capacity in Massachusetts than we need. It is our intent to make up that difference over the years by reducing, reusing and recycling. There are many options including producer take-back responsibility programs, but overall we just want to reduce the amount of waste that is disposed.”