Q&M magazine visits a concrete recycling plant in Auckland to watch a new Hyundai R145CR-9 excavator show off its versatility. By Alan Titchall.
With three concrete recycling plants in Auckland’s northern district and a new one planned at Riverhead, the recycling side of business at Atlas Concrete is doing very well, says group general manager, Shane Coutts.
“Recycling has become very important for Atlas and is an area of focus for the future.
“While recycling in New Zealand might be lagging behind the volumes produced in overseas markets, where there are legislative incentives to drive recycled aggregate, our clients are appreciating more and more the benefits of having access to the cost effectiveness of local recycling facilities that process their concrete waste into products they can use as an alternative to virgin aggregate.
“Especially as transport costs of virgin aggregate keep increasing as quarries move further out of town and motorway congestion has an impact on transport productivity.”
Based in Auckland, Atlas Concrete has concrete recycling operations at Silverdale, Kumeu and Albany, complemented by a slurry recycling facility at Woodhill. Albany is the main recycling plant and is located at 8 Paul Matthews Road, within easy reach of the North-South and East-West motorways. It is here that I meet up with Shane to photograph a new Hyundai R145CR-9 in action for the cover of this issue. Goggles and ear muffs are mandatory, while the machine is fitted with a rock breaker.
The site is surprisingly city urban, albeit neatly tucked away on an industrial park, surrounded by a green belt. Summer rain over the past evening has dampened the concrete stockpiles. “Our two challenges are noise and dust and we put a lot of effort into controlling both,” says Shane, alerting me to the sprinkler system about to shower me from above.
The Hyundai R145CR-9, with its rock breaker, is pounding away at a cluster of large concrete cylinders with the voracity of a demented woodpecker.
“They are tower crane footings from a building site,” says Shane.
“The concrete has done its job and now gets a second life. It’s a great alternative to filling up landfills with product that can be used in construction.”
The machine operator is Peter and he stops work to confer about photography angles in the interest of health and safety – largely my own. A larger Hyundai R290LC-9 excavator works in the background moving smashed up material – a smorgasbord of pre-used concrete, from bridges to power poles, patio pads, drainage pipes and driveway slabs. Clients vary between local authorities, civil contractors, builders, demolition specialists, home renovators and even DIY homeowners.
While talking with Peter I point out an unrelated asphalt recycling plant using an old wheel loader (not Hyundai) slaving away with an open cab. Tough work for that operator, I say.
“Yeah, not for me mate,” says Peter, who can enjoy Hyundai’s bigger generation cab with upper skylight and plenty of polycarbonate safety glass up front. The seat and suspension also feature the latest in cab ergonomics, which is good for your back when crabbing the machine tracks over any rubble. Powerful air conditioning takes care of that dust too.
While the Albany yard is not small, the Hyundai R145CR-9’s short (1480mm) tail-swing radius allows Peter to work in confined areas, important on recycling sites where machines work closely together and magazine editors come snooping around with cameras.
The nimble Hyundai R145CR-9 “floats”, says Shane, between the Albany site, Kumeu, Silverdale and Woodhill, working in a variety of applications.
“That includes using the rock breaker attachment at Albany, Kumeu and Silverdale when we receive large concrete structures.
“The Hyundai R145CR-9’s prominent role is at Kumeu, where it loads the crusher and its secondary role is maintaining the slurry ponds at our Woodville operations.”
Shane showed me around the site crushing plant, which is totally enclosed for dust and noise control.
“We produce around 60,000 cubes of material a year, which might be small compared to some recycling operations, but this is changing.”
Standard products are AP65, AP40, AP20, AP8, drainage 65 (65-40mm) drainage 40 (40-25mm) and drainage 25 (25-8mm).
“We have been working with Auckland Transport developing a specification for recycled crushed concrete. Once this specification is published we are expecting more acceptance of the product.”
The recycling operation is not that different from a quarry, Shane adds.
“The larger material comes in and we size and grade it. We use jaw crushers and have a small mobile impactor that floats between sites.
“The big difference is that the material comes to us so we don’t have to blast it from a hill and transport it to the plant.
“There’s basically two parts to our process – the demolition concrete is pulverised to remove the steel and size ready for the crusher. We then crush and screen over two screens to make our products. The impactor can be added into the system if we need to convert drainage products into AP products.
“Most of the raw material is moved around with excavators. The finished material is handled with loaders.”
I notice that most of the machinery is Hyundai.
“Yeah – Atlas has enjoyed a 20 plus year association with Porters and Hyundai.
“And Hyundai machines have proved a good ‘balance’ between quality and economics.”