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Houston C&D producer Cherry Expands Again, Making More and More new aggregate out of old concrete.

By Mark S. Kuhar

Now in its 60th year of business, Houston-based Cherry continues to find ways of expanding its service offerings. For example, the recycling and demolition company recently opened its fourth Texas recycling center. Located south of Houston in Hitchcock, this new center now makes it easier for Texas businesses to recycle a growing amount of deconstruction waste.

Like Cherry’s other recycling centers, the new 12-acre Hitchcock Recycling Center accepts concrete, asphalt, residential composition asphalt shingles and tires for recycling. And like all of Cherry’s recycling centers, the new facility also pays for discarded concrete.

Hitchcock is Cherry’s second largest recycling facility and is capable of producing 600 tons of TexDot Flex/Base concrete, 400 tons of 3 x 5-in. concrete and 1,000 tons of 1 3/4-in. asphalt daily. With the addition of the Hitchcock facility, Cherry’s combined daily output at its four recycling centers is 5,000 tons of TexDot Flex/Base, 1,500 tons of 3 x 5-in. concrete and 5,000 tons of 1 3/4-in.-asphalt.

Locating a new recycling facility in Hitchcock also is a good match for new construction now underway and anticipated growth in that area of Texas, according to Don Gartman, president of Galveston County Economic Alliance.

“Post Hurricane Ike, we’ve seen significant refurbishment of existing facilities, new development and an increased number of inquiries about business expansion in Galveston County, especially in Hitchcock. Texas’ vibrant economy and favorable tax rates are helping fuel this new interest,” Gartman said. “Growth is likely to come from petrochemical, manufacturing and retail businesses. And, frequently building these new facilities mean that older facilities must be demolished in order to make way.”

Cherry Ranks High
Overall, Cherry’s recycling centers process more than a million tons of concrete and asphalt, as well as thousands of tons of steel, residential composition asphalt shingles and tires every year. With a clear focus on sustainability, the company is considered one of the biggest recyclers in the state of Texas.

The company understands that an increasing number of businesses today are green-friendly because they recognize that recycled concrete and asphalt are suitable materials for new roadways and other construction projects. An added bonus is that when contractors use recycled materials in new construction, the switch conserves natural resources by reducing the amount of virgin materials that must be mined.

Recently, Cherry expanded into processing tear-off residential composition asphalt shingles at all its recycling center. Recycled shingles are an ideal material for road surfacing and as dust suppressants for crushed concrete roads throughout Texas. According to the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA), approximately 11 million tons of waste shingles are generated nationally each year. Of this total, CMRA estimates that only 1-2 million tons are being recycled for further use, with the remainder ending up in landfills.

Cherry also entered the recycled tire arena by accepting worn out tires at its recycling centers. Once considered useless, these tires are recycled and assume new value as an alternative fuel source.

Broad Community Impact
As a green company, Cherry knows that recycling has a positive impact on the wider Texas community. For example, when Cherry recycles about one million tons of concrete, this reduces about 500,000 cu. yd. of landfill. It also eliminates more than $5,500,000 in tipping fees, which are fees charged to dump trash at landfills and waste transfer stations.

With more Cherry recycling centers strategically located throughout this area of Texas, the company’s customers save time and transportation costs because deconstruction waste doesn’t have to be trucked to other remote recycling centers or landfills.

“We try to better serve customers by bringing our operations closer to them,” said Leonard Cherry, president of Cherry. “Overall, recycling preserves the natural environment by reducing the amount of concrete, asphalt, residential composition asphalt shingles and tires that are dumped in landfills and other unwanted places.”

The need for more recycling centers is evident because building-generated waste is on the rise in the United States. In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that approximately 164,000 million tons of building-generated waste is generated in the U.S. annually, of which 9 percent is construction waste, 38 percent is renovation waste and 53 percent is demolition debris.

Moving Houses
Cherry began its business operations 60 years ago as a house-moving company and then eventually expanded into residential and commercial demolition and recycling activities. Sustainability is not just an ecological and economic concept at Cherry. It’s a way of life at the company that continues to seek out new, green markets.

On the health and safety fronts, Cherry has always observed total compliance with regulations and insists on full commitment to safety precautions at all times. “The fact that we have one of the lowest workers’ compensation modifiers in the nation testifies to the safety of our work practices,” Cherry added. “Cherry has an active safety team that educates, inspects and rewards our workforce on the most reliable safety procedures. And, we will only work with other companies willing to maintain our high standards for safe work practices.”

Cherry Family Tree
Cherry says his family-operated company has 230 employees, and it has helped keep its family atmosphere in part by hiring trusted and recommended family members to help fill its employee roster.

“We also have third-generation employees,” he adds. “We’re very proud of being a family business and our definition of family does not stop at the blood line. It includes our employees and those customers who have reciprocated with their loyalty.”

This cohesive work force positively affects customer service. He says, “We are well respected in our local community and within the demolition industry itself. We spare no effort to take care of our customers; the majority of our customers are repeat or referral customers.”

After Cherry entered the recycling business, the recycling of concrete and steel was only the beginning. Cherry soon began recycling asphalt that it removed from streets and roadways, parking lots and other similar demolition assignments. Once it’s processed, recycled asphalt is ideal for use in road surface material because of its strength and durability.

Long ago, Cherry’s management realized that recycling as much as it could from every demolition assignment was important from an environmental perspective as well as from an economical point of view. Cherry explains that his company is committed to its environmental business approach because recycling concrete, asphalt, steel, asphalt shingles and tires is profitable. “And, it’s simply the right thing to do as a socially responsible company,” he adds.

For example, Cherry knew it didn’t make sense to bury usable concrete rubble in costly landfills that occupied valuable land. After the concrete material was recycled, the resulting product was perfectly suited for road base material and for a wide range of other construction projects.

Similarly, steel rebar used to end up in landfills, along with the concrete in which it was embedded. To process it, Cherry employs powerful crushers to separate the steel from the concrete rubble in its recycling centers or onsite with its portable crushing equipment. Workers then gather and bundle the steel, which is sent to mills for recycling. Ultimately, this re-used steel becomes part of thousands of new products.

Cherry Grows Tall
Today, Cherry has grown to be a $70 million organization that provides a full range of services. Well known for its expertise in demolishing structures, Cherry is one of the largest demolition companies in the United States.

However, over the years, the company has significantly grown its recycling operations by adding recycling centers and widening the range of materials to be recycled. Underscoring Cherry’s continuing environmental shift is the fact that today about 65 percent of Cherry’s gross volume is due to recycling. Six years ago, 50 percent of its gross volume came from demolition activity.

The company’s demolition crews provide much of the concrete and asphalt feedstock for its recycling operations by demolishing industrial, commercial and residential structures and removing infrastructure, such as highways, streets, bridges and runways. Other parts of the company then transport these materials to its recycling centers for processing.

Cherry’s demolition teams use skid steers, Komatsu excavators (ranging from PC 200 to PC 600 models) with a variety of attachments, including buckets, grapples, mechanical thumbs, hydraulic hammers, universal processors, sheers and CPs (concrete processors).

The company’s five pug mill operations use Ranger Conveying equipment, which includes a hopper, conveyor, silos and the pug mill itself.

Cherry’s wide-ranging resources and financial strength helps position it to handle projects of nearly any size in more than half of the United States. And, Cherry strives to reduce the environmental impact in every aspect of its operations.

For example, the company owns and operates one of the largest fleets of specialized equipment and trucks in the demolition and recycling business in the Gulf Coast region. Over the last several years, the company replaced its transportation vehicles with TERP engine type vehicles that meet lower emission standards.

“Recycling is a growing industry – even in a down economy,” said Cherry.

“As the cost of securing virgin materials goes up, recycling becomes even more attractive.”

Adding a C&D operation onto the business plan could be lucrative addition to any aggregates plant. Just ask Cherry.