The construction industry uses a significant amount of the metal produced or imported each year in the United States, whether in the form of steel beams and plates, aluminum extrusions, copper wiring or red metal plumbing pipes and fixtures.

Likewise, when buildings are demolished, the metal within them serves as a significant source of scrap that creates business relationships between demolition contractors and scrap recyclers so they each can profit from the harvested material.

When a demo project is large enough, those involved may need to consider bringing a baler onto the job site. In many other cases, scrap facility managers who know demo projects represent a major source of material will equip their yards properly to handle steel beams and other material stemming from the demolition process.

Portable prospects

Bringing a portable baler to a demolition site involves several expenses, so the decision to do so ordinarily is made only after determining the return on investment will be worthwhile, according to equipment suppliers.

Factors influencing the decision include the size and construction style of the building and how near or far it is from the yard of the intended scrap buyer. “The size and type of the building will determine the amount of recyclable material available, and the contractor must make the call on the impact of loose material freight versus baling or shearing on-site,” says Bob Pfeffer, a product manager with global equipment supplier Metso.

Therefore, large industrial buildings or complexes in remote locations can be candidates. “Examples are factories, mills, large building complexes and energy plants,” says Steve Weinberg, national sales and marketing director for Lefort America, Sunrise, Florida.

Referring to a large power plant demo job in Florida, Weinberg comments, “Due to the size and type of the job, a tremendous amount of steel scrap was generated, thus justifying the shearing and baling of material for larger returns and greater recovery revenue for every load sent.”

A portable machine that can be moved around the job site also offers benefits, says Weinberg, in that “you can bring the shear/baler unit to the material instead of moving the material to the machine, which many times cannot happen on difficult terrain.”

Another aspect of the decision is whether to purchase a piece of processing equipment, look for a way to lease or rent it or search for a specialty subcontracting firm that focuses on on-site scrap processing.

Curt Spry of Ottumwa, Iowa-based C&C Machining says fewer such specialty on-site baling companies are in the market now compared with a decade ago, but using one can sometimes be the right approach. “Commercial balers come in with an experienced operator and can usually complete the job very quickly.”

If a demo contracting firm determines its ongoing flow of work makes it worthwhile to purchase a baler or shear/baler, Pfeffer recommends such a firm start by talking to “a reputable equipment manufacturer that can provide capital costs as well as operating costs.” He adds, “A scrap processor also can assist in explaining any premiums [paid] for prepared scrap as compared to unprepared scrap.”

Cutting things down to size

Often with demo scrap, if the processing machinery won’t come to the job site, the contractor must determine which nearby scrap facility is the right one to ship and sell its scrap to during the project.

When a large industrial or commercial building is the target, a recycler equipped with stationary equipment that can chew through steel beams may be the right one.

Jeff Ham, who is based in Nashville, Tennessee, for Georgia-based Harris, says “a guillotine shear in the 1,000-ton range is a vital piece of equipment in a scrap yard” and is particularly well-suited for steel beams that comprise part of the plate and structural grade of ferrous scrap.

“This machine will process scrap at a much lower cost per ton than processing it through a shredder,” he says.

Ham says stationary shears provide advantages to operators compared with shredders. “The quality and condition of the knife blades, as well as the adjustment of them to maintain the proper knife gap, is the primary maintenance concern on a shear. Wear liners and normal hydraulics maintenance also are considerations.”

Not all shearing must take place off-site. Weinberg says “the portable type of attachable shears are available” for rent.

Pfeffer says, “If large steel beams and structures are included, the contractor may have to size this material with a mobile shear mounted on a material handler to be able to ship it.”

Equipped and ready

The importance of the link between demolition projects and the scrap industry has been long-lasting and continues to gain the attention of equipment suppliers. Metso says its new N-Series of transportable shear/baler/loggers and shears are designed for metal recycling companies that “operate on many sites or offer scrap processing as a service.”

In addition to Metso, Harris, Lefort and C&C, numerous other manufacturers are developing or upgrading their processing machinery to address this sector.

Sierra International Machinery, Bakersfield, California, has enjoyed significant market share in the sector for several decades. The company’s RB5000 portable baler/logger can process up to 22 tons per hour of “logged” scrap material. The company indicates its SLK shear/baler/logger line has been designed to offer “large shear production at a small price.”

Demo contractors considering investing in scrap processing equipment can receive advice by talking openly with their allies in the scrap recycling sector, Spry says. “I would suggest going to see a baler in operation at either an existing demo site or a nearby scrap yard that is processing material similar to what you would have at the demo site.”

To whatever extent they choose to cooperate on a given project, demo contractors and scrap processors each are likely to benefit as manufacturers compete to serve this critical sector.

The author is an editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at