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Large-scale recycling taking load off landfill


When you see a huge front-end loader struggle upward at a sharp angle, dwarfed by the pile of trash it’s battling, you immediately grasp the scope of the recycling that goes on at 1422 S.E. Scott Ave., just southeast of downtown Des Moines.

A parade of big trucks – and the occasional pickup – has been feeding construction and demolition debris into the plant run by Taylor Recycling Facility of Iowa LLC since it began operations about June 1. When Jordan Creek Town Center was under construction west of the city, pieces of lumber, concrete and metal arrived at this spot on the Southeast Side. When the mall’s stores unpacked their new equipment and inventory, the leftover cardboard wound up here, too.

Operated in partnership with Regency Builders Inc., it’s the first permanent recycling facility set up outside the state of New York by the Taylor company, founded as a tree-care and site-clearing company by James Taylor Sr. in 1956. Based in Montgomery, just 60 miles north of New York City, the firm transitioned into Taylor Recycling Facility LLC in 1994. In 2001, Taylor Recycling began a nine-month stint processing the debris from the collapsed World Trade Center towers.

Taylor’s building isn’t the only place in Greater Des Moines to take unwanted two-by-fours and old bricks. A similar facility, Phoenix Construction & Demolition Recycling, began operations in April just north of the city. It’s owned by Tony Colosimo — who also owns Artistic Waste Services Inc. — along with several partners.

This local boom in C&D recycling erupted when Metro Waste Authority looked into locating such a program at its landfill several miles east of Des Moines. “We went through the process to select a vendor to be at our landfill,” said Tom Hadden, executive director of MWA. Taylor rose to the top among about 25 applicants for the contract. “Then Phoenix stepped up and suggested letting the private sector go ahead,” Hadden said. “Now we allow our hauling companies to go to either Phoenix or Taylor.”

Both recyclers charge haulers higher tipping fees than they would pay at the MWA landfill. However, most area builders can save a lot of time by using them.

“One of the leading companies had trucks hauling four or five loads to the landfill every day,” said Ken Mogul, Taylor’s vice president of operations. “Now they’re hauling nine loads a day.” Not only is the Scott Avenue site closer to most local construction projects, but management claims that most trucks are in and out of the facility in less than 10 minutes.

Inside the building, workers manually sort the materials twice. Then giant grinders reduce wood to small chips for animal bedding and turn bricks and concrete into aggregate suitable for roads and parking lots. The metal is crunched into big bales to be shipped to other recyclers.

Some material that’s difficult to separate is ground into “alternative daily cover” and sold to MWA at $1 per ton. This ADC is used instead of soil to cover the garbage dumped each day at the landfill.

Less than 5 percent of the material that comes into the Taylor building goes back out the door as garbage, which costs the company in tipping fees at the landfill.

Mogul planned to return to New York last week after spending the past few months getting Taylor’s Des Moines facility up and running. Buying new equipment and reconfiguring the existing building cost the company more than $3 million, he said.

The building has been used for the same purpose before, but that enterprise failed. Likewise, Phoenix operates at the site of a previous C&D recycling effort. According to industry observer William Turley, executive director of the Construction Materials Recycling Association, second-rate equipment doomed one operation and a mechanical failure led to problems that ruined the other.

Cleaning up

Two new construction and demolition recyclers could have a healthy impact on both the environment and the economy if they’re successful in the long term. According to Tom Hadden, Metro Waste Authority’s landfill received more than 130,000 tons of construction and demolition material last year, and the agency is under pressure to divert significant quantities away from the landfill. The Taylor Recycling Facility LLC operation handles about 300 tons per day and Phoenix Construction & Demolition Recycling takes in more than 200 tons per day. Taylor employs about 33 people and Phoenix has more than 20 on its payroll. The reduction in tipping-fee income has forced MWA to cut its budget, however, and four landfill jobs have been eliminated over the past two years.

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