A Love For the Crush

Oct. 18, 2002

Created in 1980 as an offshoot of Independence Excavating, whose resume includes demolition, sewer services and major earthwork--including site work at Jacobs Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians--Independence Recycling has grown into a major-league success story of its own.

Created in 1980 as an offshoot of Independence Excavating, whose resume includes demolition, sewer services and major earthwork--including site work at Jacobs Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians--Independence Recycling has grown into a major-league success story of its own. From humble beginnings as a local recycle contractor with a single portable crushing and screening plant started primarily to handle demolition materials generated by its sister company, today the company employs 60, operates nine portable horizontal shaft impact crushing plants producing in excess of 3 million tons of spec product per year and services a broad customer base east of the Mississippi River.

Independence Recycling owns several yards, including its main location in Cleveland, Ohio, and others in Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Fort Myers, Fla., where contractors can dump their asphalt and concrete recycle material free of charge. This creates a win-win situation by saving the contractors from hefty tipping fees at the landfills, while allowing Independence Recycling to generate a reusable, saleable product for its customers.

Two of the company's nine portable plants remain predominantly stationary because of the sheer volume of material coming into the locations--one located at a quarry off of nearby Kelly's Island and a second based at the Orlando facility--while the rest of the plants are on the road, hustling to crush 10,000- to 50,000-ton jobs throughout the eastern U.S. Each plant is capable of producing a variety of spec products to meet the customer's demands. "We will go anywhere it's affordable to crush, and we will even crush for some of our 'friendly' competitors from time to time," said Independence Recycling Operations Manager Ron Brocco.

The brains and heart

Drawing from more than 15 years of experience, Independence Recycling runs an efficient portable custom crushing operation. Each crushing operation includes a two-person working crew--one loader and plant operator--a Caterpillar loader, a skid-steer loader for site clean-up and a 53-ft van trailer. The trailer is the brains of the operation, housing the office, a generator, a compressor for running tools and every spare part logical to carry for the crushing plant.

With the trailer being the brains, the heart of the crushing operation is the portable crushing and screening plant. Independence Recycling owns varied sizes of portable plants, ranging in production from 150-800 tph, so it can be flexible enough to handle just about any custom-crushing application that the customers demand.

Most of Independence Recycling's plants are moved at least 7-10 times per year, with the more portable plants moving most often. When a customer calls in a job, Brocco looks at the master schedule of where each crusher is located and how close the current job is to completion. He also takes into account if the crusher is capable of efficiently handling the feed material and job specs and completing the job on time. After considering all the factors, he moves in the best plant capable of handling the job.

Mover doesn't drop the ball

One such call came from customer Angelo Iafrate Construction, the general contractor for three interstate highway projects near Lafayette, La. The contract called for crushing approximately 30,000 tons of concrete material generated from work on I-49 north of Lafayette, the I-10/I-49 interchange in Lafayette and bridge work on I-10 east of Lafayette. The finished spec product needed was a DOT 1.5-in. minus product to be used as fill material for the reconstruction of these highway projects.

After checking the crushing schedule and considering all the factors, Brocco moved in the best plant suited to tackle the tough application, the IROCK RDS-25. According to Brocco, the RDS-25 was close in proximity, less time-consuming to move and less costly to mobilize than the other plants in his fleet. "The bigger plants didn't justify the move," because of the job size relative to the cost/time to move them.

The IROCK RDS-25 portable crushing and screening plant is a two-trailer design. The first chassis includes the engines, variable speed feeder/hopper, 4056 impactor and under crusher feed pan. The second houses the double-deck incline screen, recycle magnet, screen feed conveyor and return conveyor. The RDS-25's weight distribution enables the plant to be moved without component disassembly, while its design allows the plant to be erected on site without a crane or other lifting device.

This is due to the plant's patented Automag system. With the system's dedicated power source, a single lever hydraulically raises the incline screen and recycle magnet into operating position and lowers them for transport. With the Automag, the screening trailer can be readied for operation in under a half hour.

Brocco concedes that even with IROCK's features to improve portability, the two-trailer design is still slightly less portable than a single-trailer design.

The RDS-25 was moved to a sand and gravel pit located adjacent to the I-49 project and was set up and ready to crush within a day. Concrete was trucked from all three interstate projects via 24-ton, 18-wheeler end dump trucks and stockpiled on location. According to the terms of the contract, the concrete feed was to be prepped by the general contractor into sections no larger than 24 in. "We tell the contractor 24 in., so the majority of the feed will be this size, but we know that we'll get some larger," claimed Brocco.

And larger is what Ben Kelley, Independence Recycling's on-site superintendent, got. Kelley estimated, "Fifty percent of the feed was larger than 24 in." But the crusher was up to the challenge. Kelley said that the RDS-25 is capable of devouring up to 3-ft chunks of recycle concrete, but he doesn't like to feed a steady diet of that size feed into the impactor.

Even with a sizable portion of oversized feed material, the crushing plant was able to keep on schedule and efficiently deliver a passing 1.5-in. Louisiana DOT base fill material spec. A key factor in staying on schedule was that, according to Kelley, more than 80% of the feed was crushed to spec on the first pass through the plant. This challenge was made even more difficult due to the abrasive nature of the aggregate making up the recycle concrete.

High-strength bar

Part of what Independence Recycling brings to the table for its customers is a broad-based experience with concrete and asphalt feed material from a variety of regions throughout the U.S. A critical part of the job, explained Brocco, is, "You have to know what type of aggregate is in the recycle feed material."

The aggregate found in most of the concrete from the Lafayette applications was predominantly a highly abrasive flint-based river rock. Since Independence Recycling was crushing reinforced concrete, they could not use high-chrome blow bars because the rebar increased the likelihood of bar breakage. So one alternative was using a medium-chrome blow bar to crush the feed. However, a relatively short wear life and increased down time to flip and change the bars drove up the costs. So Independence Recycling turned to IROCK Crushers for a better solution.

IROCK's ceramic bars offer the wear life of high chrome blow bars, but are less brittle and will not break when coming into contact with the reinforcing material in recycled concrete.

Independence Recycling used IROCK's ceramic bars with the Lafayette application and both Brocco and Kelley reported nearly a doubling of wear life over medium-chrome bars. Although the ceramic bars cost more than medium chrome, Independence Recycling saves on the down time associated with flipping and changing the bars.

Crushing numbers

The first year Independence Recycling went into the crushing business, the company crushed about 75,000 tons. Since then, they have steadily grown in size and number of tons produced. It took them 10 years to top 1 million tons produced but only another six to top the 3 million ton mark. With a diversified arsenal of portable impact crushing and screening plants that include production capacities ranging from 150-800 tph, this is not happening to Independence Recycling.

Even with the current weak economic conditions and the continued slow recovery, Independence Recycling's flexibility and ability to meet changing market demands is getting them the jobs they need to stay strong and continue to grow.

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