Recycling Concrete Reaches Area via Rolling Rock

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As a man who’s spent decades in construction, Bill Sweetser knows it is an industry that is slow to change.

There’s nothing like three- and four-fold increases in material costs on everything from drywall to diesel to shake up what were once standard practices.

Sweetser and partner Brad Johnson are co-owners of Rolling Rock LLC, which owns one of only two concrete crushers in Arkansas used to transform what was once landfill clogging waste into reusable aggregate building materials.

The Komatsu crusher, a $400,000 piece of machinery, has been in high demand locally ever since Johnson and Sweetser purchased it in December 2007.

They used it at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville to break up the old concrete pads from a neighboring trailer park.

Johnson and Sweetser estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of concrete that would have normally been hauled off to landfills was kept on site.

That saved around 150 round trips by dump trucks that average only three to four miles per gallon of diesel fuel, which has hovered around $4.50 for most of the year.

Factor in the 150 trucks worth of material that would have been needed for construction and the $20-plus per hour for drivers and the savings increase rapidly.

“It’s very cost-effective if you have a lot of volume,” Sweetser said.

In one day, the crusher uses about 50 gallons of diesel, less than one truck uses in the same time.

By allowing contractors to dump old concrete at their west Fayetteville site instead of landfills outside Tontitown or Prairie Grove, Sweetser and Johnson don’t have to mine as much new rock from the pit and can resell the recycled aggregate product at a fair price.

Using recycled building materials helps a project qualify for LEED certification and the crusher can be set to produce various sized material, even the right sized pebbles to reline creek beds for the perfect ripple effect.

The Rolling Rock crusher was also used in Fayetteville’s new wastewater project. The city had to blast large amounts of rocks to clear paths for the pipelines, but they also needed gravel for pipe beddings and access roads.

The Komatsu machines solved both problems, allowing the city to crush the blasted rock on site and reuse it immediately. The pair has also received calls from companies working on the Fayetteville Shale Play and the natural gas pipelines with the same needs.

“It benefits the community, landfill space and the companies,” Sweetser said. “We haven’t found a downside yet.”

As word has spread about the cost benefits, Rolling Rock has been booked solid and is already considering purchasing the larger crusher to handle even bigger jobs like bridge replacements.

Johnson called the push for better practices such as concrete recycling “an awakening” in the construction business.

“The thinking is still in its infancy,” Johnson said. “We always hear, ‘Wow, I never thought about that.’”