It's a situation that seems ready made for a certain credit card company's advertisements. "Cost of acquiring and permitting a suitable site for material recycling ... quite a bit. Investment in the people and screening, crushing and support equipment necessary to do the work ... substantial. Doing something good for the environment while making stockpiles of materials for use on your own construction projects ... priceless."
And that's about how it is for Jim Kidwell, CEO of Jim Kidwell Construction Company of Greenwood, Mo., who opened his own material recycling site about a year ago. Located on an old, 10-acre quarry on Highway 350 between Kansas City and Raytown, 350 Recycling is set up to process rock and dirt from Jim Kidwell Construction Company's projects into materials that can be used for backfill, sub base and roads.
The investment needed to start 350 Recycling was high for an operation that he doesn't expect to turn a profit — Kidwell places the equipment costs alone at about $1.5 million — but he figures it is worth the cost to be able to do what should be done.
"I've been in the excavating and grading business for 41 years and as I look back I see that sometimes we weren't really doing things the best way we could have," Kidwell said. "Years ago, we'd haul dirt and rock and waste materials out of a project site and find a hole to fill up. The closer the hole was to the job, the better because you'd make more money. Then somebody would want to build something on the hole we had filled and we'd have to dig all that rock and dirt up and haul it somewhere else.
"I'm no super ecologist, but times have changed. You can't find a hole and dump just anywhere now and you have to start thinking about your grandkids. We have to recycle and reuse more of this stuff."
Doug Majors is the superintendent of 350 Recycling and he has 10 operators working in the yard who work eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week, or six days a week if they need to produce more material for projects.
"We have a Komatsu PC300 with pinchers to size the concrete and another PC300 with a hydraulic hammer to break rock," Majors said. "We like to get the concrete or rock to around 2 feet to make it a good size for crushing."
Wheel loaders at the recycling site include a Caterpillar 966 and two Komatsu WA 450's used to stockpile materials and load the Nordberg/Reed screens and Eagle crushers. "We run our material through the Reed screen (with a 4-inch screen) to clean it and then take the clean material to the crusher," said Majors.
Two Eagle 1000 portable crushers in the yard process the rock and concrete, which is then conveyed to CEC screening plants that separate the recycled material into four products: 1/2-inch clean, 3/4-inch clean, rock dust, and oversize (3/4-inch to 3-inch rock). They also recycle asphalt for reuse on temporary roads or in new asphalt.
"We can average about 150 tons an hour per crusher or about 3,000 tons a day," Majors said. "Of course, that depends on the material we're recycling. The easiest to crush is virgin rock, then concrete, then asphalt. Concrete can slow us down and can be hard on belts if there is a lot of rebar left in it but we get more wear and tear from the asphalt than anything else because it's so abrasive."
According to Majors, the Eagle crushers hold up well under the constant work and need little maintenance. "The Eagles aren't bad for maintenance. We inspect them every evening and our fuel guy keeps them greased. You have wear on the wear plates and blow bars but with the rock we usually crush, we can crush 30,000 tons before we flop them."
Kidwell uses the products from 350 Recycling for his own projects, as backfill or base, and said that immediate access to materials is a big benefit for Jim Kidwell Construction Company. "Sometimes, a quarry can be out of a certain product I might need on a project, so the convenience of having the material right here is a good reason in itself to recycle," he explained. "And, though we're not really saving any money, instead of writing a check to a quarry, some of that money stays in the company."
Over the past year, Kidwell estimates the company has reduced its rock purchases from about $2.5 million to $500,000.
"Since we've been doing this, other contractors have come out to see the operation and talk with us about what we're doing," said Kidwell. "I always tell them they need to start recycling and reusing materials and many of them are getting into it.
"It is expensive to set up because of the equipment — rubber tired loaders, trackhoes with the attachments, a crusher and screening plant plus the staff — but I think recycling is good for the environment and good for the economy."
Wanting to do even more, Kidwell is partnering with Superior Bowen Asphalt Company to start a construction landfill in Blue Springs. "We're ready and just waiting for the permit now," said Kidwell. "We're starting it because the closest construction landfill in the area is in Olathe and that can be at least a 50-mile round trip from most places in the Kansas City area."
When it opens, the Blue Springs construction landfill will take lumber, sheet rock, and any other building material. It will also have a special place for people to dump rock, concrete and trees so they can be recycled.
"We'll use one of the portable Eagle crushers for the rock and concrete," Kidwell said, "and we'll use a wood chipper to make mulch that can be used for landscaping or for erosion control."