Back when Bill Clinton was president, the Thomson family began the permitting process for what was to be a transfer station located in North Andover, Mass. The company had been, and still is, a long time waste hauler in New England, but knew it had to vertically integrate to grow.
Immediately there was opposition from the community to the new facility, according to Bill Thomson, one of the owners of the CMRA member company. Over the years the rules changed in Massachusetts and the transfer facility concept changed to a C&D recycling facility, which one would think would garner more support from the community because of its environmentally friendly nature. Not a chance.
“We bought this property specifically because of the zoning that would allow us to put up a facility,” said Thomson. But still, many local politicians opposed it being built, and they were supported by local environmental groups. “That was the part we did not understand, so-called environmentalists fighting a recycling facility. I thought recycling was supposed to be good for the environment,” said Thomson.
The company, Thomson Brothers Industries, went through the permitting process two times. On the second time, the local health board, which regulates the permitting of solid waste facilities, “had the courage to accept our application and withstand the pressure from the environmentalists and others, and give us a fair hearing. We were fortunate to be successful,” said Thomson.
However, the delay proved to be an unexpected benefit. During the period between applications, Massachusetts changed the state regulations for the disposal of solid waste. The state began its disposal ban on many C&D materials including concrete, asphalt, wood, metals and OCC. This change is what prompted the company to change from a transfer station to a low level C&D recycling operation that would create a high percentage of fines material that could be used for shaping, grading and alternative daily cover in landfills. Several years later, because of hydrogen sulfide problems at the landfills, the state severely limited how much and where C&D fines could be used, taking away a lot of that market. Fortunately, said Thomson, the facility was not in the final design stage, and it was able to work with equipment supplier CBI to revise the plans to provide for a higher level of sorting.
The delay also gave the company time to tour other existing C&D recycling facilities throughout the country. “The facility owners, all CMRA members, were generous with their time, experiences and recommendations. We got to see what worked and what didn’t, and also what we would change,” said Thomson. “It really helped us determine the layout of our facility.”
As part of the permit, everything had to be under roof. Operation takes place in a 30,000 square foot building that is required to keep the doors closed when the plant is operating. The facility operates a bag house to filter the air in the building, and keep the dust out by changing the air three times per hour.
The facility is permitted for 500 tons per day of incoming material, seven days a week. All incoming and outgoing vehicles are weighed. The facility has three hydraulic scales manufactured by Cardinal. There are inbound and outbound scales located at the scale house with the third scale in the drive through trailer pit. Based on ownership’s long familiarity with the trucking industry, the inbound material is dumped under a 50-ft ceiling with doors that are 35-ft tall. The building was designed to provide incoming vehicles with the easiest and safest dumping process.
Loads are inspected on the floor after tipping. A Komatsu 450 wheel loader with the waste handling package pushes the material up to the loading area. Then the operator of a Sennebogen material handler with a grapple loads the material into the shredder. After the material is processed and passes through the system, a second Komatsu 450 loader located at the opposite end of the building loads outbound material into trailers. Bob Benard of C.N. Wood Co. worked closely with the Thomson brothers to size the proper equipment for the project.
The process begins with a slow speed shredder. The shredder is a CBI Annihilator with a 6-inch forged steel 20,000 lb rotor with reversible tips, auto reverse and automatic purge cycle. An 8,000-lb hydraulically actuated anvil door with remote control adjusts the cutting gap. This primary reduction brings material down to a 24-inch minus. This material is discharged on to an Action Tapered Slot screen. The overs (8-inch plus) are conveyed to a large picking station for manual sorting of wood, OCC, paper, aggregate, gypsum, ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
The unders (8-inch minus) are conveyed to an Action Vibra-Snap screen that uses low frequency and long amplitude strokes to screen the material. The fines (2-inch minus) are conveyed to a storage bin and diverted to a landfill as a shaping and grading product. The overs (2-inch plus to 8-inch minus) are passed through an Action Dense Out that uses air and vibration to separate the material into three fractions. Heavies (asphalt brick, concrete) are conveyed and discharged into the storage bunker located below the picking station. The medium fraction is conveyed into the picking station for manual sorting. The super light fraction which includes paper and plastic is pulled into a cyclone and then is discharged in a compactor.
There are usually 18 pickers on the three lines. “Laborers on the picking line are in a fully enclosed picking station,” said Thomson. “We bring in fresh air from outside and heat or cool it as necessary. Pumping air in all the time and not re-circulating it helps keep the dust out of the picking station.” Typically 14 are on the A line, two on the B line and two on the C line.
Like so many other mixed C&D operations, wood is the key to success. According to Thomson, the operation does a positive pick to eliminate contamination from plastic and paper. The picked wood is sent directly to a CBI model 3648 grizzly mill grinder with a 36-inch rotor being driven by a 250-hp motor. It is ground to meet a biomass spec for a paper mill. It is not an easy specification to meet, and requires a screen change to reduce the amount of fines in the end product.
OCC is baled and shipped to a paper recycler. Aggregate (ABC) is diverted from disposal and is used for a road base product. Gypsum is shipped to a recycler for reuse in new wallboard. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals are sent to recyclers. Rigid plastic and carpeting are not being recovered because of a lack of markets. Fines, which are required to be sampled and tested, are sent to a landfill for shaping and grading.
Lack of flexibility by regulatory agencies is the biggest hurdle to the C&D recycling industry in the state. Related to that are permitting, and not just for the long struggle Thomson’s company went through, but also for the C&D biomass facilities in the state as they struggle to get permitted. “It is unfortunate these C&D biomass facilities are mired down in politics and permitting. They would have turned the wood into more of a commodity rather than a product that we need to find a home for,” said Thomson.
The 500 tpd permit currently suits the company. “We would like a larger permit, but that involves larger permitting costs,” said Thomson. “You have to sit down to see if it is worth it; is the material available, can the market bear it, what is the political climate and then make the decision to move forward or not.” But the facility is in an advantageous area. While Massachusetts has at least a dozen mechanized C&D recycling facilities is such a small area, Thomson Brothers Industries is the only one in the north east part of the state. Its immediate neighbors are a capped landfill, paper plant, sewage treatment plant and an airport.
Bill Thomson is the oldest of four brothers who run the company. Jeff Thomson handles the business end of the company, Brian the hauling company and Kevin the other transfer station they operate. They have been around trucks all of their lives—their father has been in the trucking industry for years and continues to oversee current the operation. “We have hauled municipal waste, sewage sludge, hazardous waste and demolition material for many years over the road for several of the large national companies,” said Thomson.
The family also has a full service hauling company. Northside Carting provides roll off, commercial, industrial and municipal waste collection. The recycling facility was the next step for them. “Vertical integration is how we are going to continue to grow our company,” said Thomson.