New Markets

A long-time barrier to more C&D recycling in the United States has been the limited markets for the end products. Even when an end product has been shown to work in a variety of locations throughout the country, such as recycled aggregates as a roadbase, there are still state departments of transportation that say it won’t work in their states, even if the states on all four sides of it have successfully used the material.

It is even worse for most of the rest of the C&D materials stream. But two topics this magazine and C&D World, the CMRA’s Annual Meeting, have long focused on, C&D wood and asphalt shingles, are now having some new opportunities open up for them, despite the attempts by some to over regulate them.

For wood, gasification could be its expanded future. On behalf of the CMRA, I participated in a meeting with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a meeting organized by CMRA member Bayshore Recycling. The meeting with top personnel at NJDEP was on the necessity for markets for recycled wood in the state. While there is some action in mulch in New Jersey, Pennsylvania was the nearest to the C&D biomass fuel market. As the NJDEP noted in the meeting, why was its wood fuel going to Pennsylvania instead of helping power its own state, which has lofty green energy goals? In addition, there was a discussion of C&D wood being used as feedstock to a gasification process to produce a variety of fuels, which the DEP vigorously supported. Imagine that, a state environmental agency finding ways to help recyclers instead of thinking up stricter regulations. This news on gasification comes on top of Taylor Biomass, headed by CMRA Immediate Past President James Taylor, winning a $100 million loan guarantee from the federal government to proceed with a gasification technology in New York.    

The other interesting development is warm mix asphalt and shingles. Warm mix is an environmentally friendly asphalt process that uses less energy to produce the paving product. I remember listening a few years ago to a presentation by Don Brock, chairman of Astec Industries, and one of the foremost experts on asphalt technology. He said he didn’t think it would be possible to use recycled asphalt shingles in warm mix, which at the time was a despairing thought. Brock, a true pioneer in pavement recycling, is rarely wrong, but since then several competing technologies have been developed that use shingles in warm mix. Besides the obvious environmental benefits, the cost savings to produce that material compared to regular hot mix must be tremendous; one saves
on heating the mixture while shingles have been shown to cut incoming materials costs.

It is promising developments like these that will really increase C&D recycling, and there needs to be more of it. As the economic viability of C&D recycling continues to increase, you can expect to see other markets open. The best driver for increased recycling remains more end markets.