Material sourcing has not been an issue. There are incentives for working with Zwicky Processing & Recycling, including the ability to earn LEED credits.
“Most of it comes in from other people’s roll-offs and we get a lot out of transfer stations,” says Zwicky. “Some comes in pre-sorted. Some comes in unsorted. We will tap into anybody who has material that we could use that wants to work with us. We do quantity pricing and pre-sorted pricing... We actually have a waiting list of people that want to bring stuff in to us. Our limit is we have to be able to justify taking it in so we can do something with it and put it back out.”
RAS creates opportunity
Bluff City Materials, based in Barlett, IL, has a long history in the Chicago market. “We started in underground construction, including putting utilities in the ground,” says Matt Vondra, vice president. “Our company evolved into construction materials recycling and excavation. It then dovetailed into mining and mine reclamation work.
Today, the company operates recycling and construction materials-handling facilities in and around the city of Chicago.
“This is how we grew into recycled asphalt shingles (RAS),” says Vondra. “We have an asphalt plant and were trying to make the most economical hot-mix asphalt. With our experience in recycling, we decided to partake in a joint venture recycling asphalt shingles.” This joint venture resulted in the formation of Southwind RAS, LLC.
When shingles are added to asphalt, it reduces the cost and saves on oil. Besides the economic benefits, there is a tremendous environmental benefit to RAS. “The number of times it reduces the carbon footprint is a quadratic equation,” Vondra asserts.
In order to produce RAS mix, a steady supply of shingles is necessary. In the early days, this came from shingle manufacturers. “RAS started with manufacturer scrap,” notes Vondra. “But because of the limited volume, we decided on the tear-off side of the business, which is more complicated.”
In order to collect enough shingles to justify a recycling effort and the associated investment in specialized equipment, you need to be near an urban environment. “It is a population-based statistic,” says Vondra.
Supply is basically a numbers game. “It’s a pretty stable business because of the way roofing shingles wear,” Vondra explains. “Almost all houses have asphalt roofing shingles. As they are going on, they are coming off. For every 30,000 people, there are a certain number of roofs that will come off every year.”
Southwest RAS recycled about 40,000 roofs in Chicago and about 1,200 roofs in Peoria last year. Two Rotochopper RG-I shingle grinders handled this workload. One grinder is dedicated to Chicago. The other is stationed in Rockford and is moved to Peoria after enough material has been accumulated to grind.
The grinders are powered by Caterpillar engines, and are custom-made for grinding shingles. This keeps the RAS in spec and ensures a consistent gradation. The abrasive nature of the shingles creates a lot of wear on the grinder, and maintenance is something that must be performed regularly.
Shingles from re-roofing projects are delivered to processing centers. “We charge disposal fees,” says Vondra. “Essentially, customers pay us instead of a landfill. The fees are less than half those at a landfill and customers don’t have to pay environmental assessments.”
The fees help offset the cost of processing the shingles. “It is a capital-intensive business,” says Vondra. The company has invested in five facilities around Chicago with five additional facilities in Rockford and Peoria.
Before the shingles can be used, they must be tested for quality and the presence of asbestos. Asbestos has not yet posed a problem.
“An Illinois Department of Public Health certified inspector examines inbound loads and takes representative samples. Those samples are sent to a lab before the shingles are incorporated into our feed material,” says Vondra. “We have not had one detection of asbestos.”