Recycling has become such a ubiquitous word that we have collectively lost sight of what we’re actually accomplishing through the process. Just a few short decades ago, millions of tons of potentially valuable material were simply dumped in the ground and buried over. This is not only truly wasteful of the static amount of land we have on this planet, but also truly wasteful of the static amount of perfectly good resources available to us. Not to even mention the energy variable. So recycling is just plain obvious … we’ve all had our fair share of leftovers for dinner. Same idea.
It would seem then that the goal of maximum diversion would be a rather simple concept to achieve, but for the hundreds of companies that are capitalizing on this opportunity every day, the reality is actually quite different. One company that has been able to master the myriad markets, regulations, and processes to reach a high success rate is North Carolina-based AAA Hauling. In little more than four years, President Kenny Hardin and Vice President John Killian have lead this company from a start-up roll-off operation to a materials processing leader with a diversion rate that averages well above 70%. But it was not a straight path up.
“We started as a roll-off container company focused exclusively on construction and demolition debris removal,” explained Hardin. “We quickly formed strong relationships with the surrounding market, and opened a tipping yard for additional services.” Initially, 100% of all the material AAA Hauling collected was eventually redistributed back to the landfill. “We simply functioned as a transportation middle man, collecting the debris, consolidating it, and taking it to the landfill to dump.”
While this quickly transformed into a successful business by traditional methods, it didn’t take long for Hardin and his team to recognize that the $25,000 to $35,000 monthly dumping fee going to the landfill was potential revenue that could be recovered — or at least redirected to a more productive purpose. “We just hated seeing that money being paid out. We would rather be able to put people to work and contribute more positively to our community.” And if they could make some additional profit adding value to that material that would have otherwise been landfilled, Hardin would consider it gravy.
Still inexperienced in the recycling business, they jumped into the process immediately, purchasing a Doppstadt DW 3060 slow-speed shredder. “We had an idea and thought we knew what would work,” he admitted reluctantly. “We went to a couple of waste shows like ConAgg and Waste Expo, researched the different equipment options and analyzed what they could do for us. We were really impressed with the Doppstadt DW 3060 shredder, so we jumped in.” Turning to Gregory Poole Equipment, their regional DoppstadtUS dealer, AAA Hauling took delivery of their shredder and immediately set out to claim their stake in the recycling industry.
The decision ultimately proved incorrect: not only was a shredder the wrong piece of equipment for achieving their goals, but they failed to (and ultimately never did acquire) the proper permits necessary to appropriately operate the shredder in their yard. “We thought material reduction was the right path to effective recycling, but eventually we realized that was an incorrect assumption.” Hardin is quick to admit that their ‘go-it-alone’ entry into recycling was clearly not the most successful approach. “Perhaps it could have been thought out better, but we weren’t too far off. Turns out we had the right company, just the wrong machine!”
With a clearer understanding of the recycling business, Hardin returned to Poole and DoppstadtUS, a little bit humbled, but even more determined. “The Gregory Poole and DoppstadtUS guys were tremendously helpful. Martin Morgan really stepped up and worked with us from a business perspective not to try to ‘sell’ us a machine, but to ‘show’ us how to use their products to achieve our goals,” praised Hardin. “We evaluated a number of solutions and tried a few different ideas before we found the right combination for us. They really helped get us into the right machine and stuck with us while we learn when they could just as easily have left us to our own.”
With the help of regional DoppstadtUS dealer Gregory Poole Equipment Company and DoppstadtUS regional manager Martin Morgan, Hardin and his team completely rethought how their material stream could be best managed. The new solution starts with a Doppstadt SM 720 trommel. All the construction debris that comes in is put through an initial screening pass to remove dirt and fines. That effort alone was a real eye-opening revelation for. “The SM is a huge benefit for pulling out the dirt and fines,” explained Hardin. “We were probably paying to send 20 tons of dirt and fines to the landfill.”
Overs from the trommel are then fed onto a Doppstadt DUS 60110 10-bin, stationary electric sorting station with an eleventh bin to collect the discharge from the ferrous magnet. “Before, we were simply sorting things by hand into piles in our yard. With the 85-foot picking line, we can easily pull cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, cans, metal, wood, shingles, concrete, rock, brick, asphalt, sheetrock; in the end, what isn’t eventually recyclable then goes to the landfill.”
In less than a year, AAA Hauling has achieved a remarkable 75% diversion rate, and are still looking for ways to further increase that success. “We average between 70% and 80% diversion. Our goal is to consistently hit 85%, but we’ll need to uncover some new markets to reach that level. I know it’s possible for us, but we need to make sure our solutions are stable before making new commitments.”
For all they have accomplished thus far, Hardin is most proud of being able to make a positive difference in his community. “Once we got this proper setup installed, we went from employing three people in our recycling division to employing eight, in a down economy; not to mention all the material that is now not going to the landfill. That’s a real win-win.”
Having established a sustainable recycling business, AAA Hauling is realizing the scope of benefits that brings to their core business. Already they have attracted opportunities by helping construction and demolition clients attain LEED certification, and they are working to deepen their experience to specialize in the process and work closely with regional contractors to help them capitalize on those benefits.
“In the end, we’re diverting dozens of different materials, some with stable markets, others that require more creative means of sourcing. We created eight new jobs, and average 75% diversion from our material stream. But we’re still a very new venture and we are continuing to figure things out along the way,” added Hardin. “We’re obviously trying to make money, but as long as we can pull out material and cover our costs that’s a plus. We know this is a growing market and the real returns are still to come.”
Not bad after spending six months heading down the wrong road.