Contractors, developers and haulers now have an environmentally friendly alternative when it comes to disposing of construction and demolition waste materials in Savannah.
Green Acres Recycling Facility, 1901 Louisville Road, takes construction waste, such as wood, rock, drywall, cardboard, plastics and metals, and converts them into inputs for fiber mills, fertilizer, fuel, topsoil and a variety of other raw materials.
“Everything that we rescue makes a superior byproduct to that which is currently in the market,” owner Jim Lientz said. “So we are salvaging waste to actually make or create a better end product for a user.”
After only five months in operation the site is processing up to 200,000 pounds of construction waste per day, Lientz said, and is able to put up to 60 percent of the weight taken in by the facility back into the market. At full capacity, Green Acres can process nearly 50,000 pounds of debris across their belts per hour.
“We see value in materials,” Lientz said. “We work with any of the haulers around town. We currently offer our services at an advantageous deal for both our clients and our haulers. And the architects and developers around town can achieve LEED credentials.”
Green Acres isn’t Lientz’s first rodeo. The Savannah native’s initial business venture after graduating with a business degree from the University of Mississippi was selling imported beer. However, Lientz said he has always had a strong passion for environmental issues.
“I wanted do something that felt better, you know, for both the body and the mind,” he said.
Lientz’s vision for Green Acres began after he spent time observing the operations of a local landfill.
“Watching stuff get dumped — all of the good wood and cardboard, drywall, metals … It was baffling to me that our solution is to crush it, compact it, roll over it and bury it,” he said.
Because Savannah lacked a streamlined way to recycle construction waste and land is becoming an increasingly scarce and valuable resource, Lientz said, local businesses must do what they can to minimize the use of landfills.
“For our children and our children’s children it is important to do what we can to save it,” he said.
While the two major landfills that handle construction debris are several miles outside the Savannah city limits, Green Acres is located just two-and-a-half miles from town. The site uses the automated computerized system, QuickPass, where haulers can weigh in, drop their load on a concrete pad and check out in less than ten minutes, Lientz said.
He also said haulers may spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on weather conditions, dropping of debris at local landfills and often are forced to drive over debris that can potentially damage their vehicles.
“They save time at our gate — time in and out. They save fuel. They save tires by tipping on a concrete pad instead of running across rough jagged debris … One of my haulers mentioned to me when I got started that he spent anywhere from six to eight thousand dollars a month on tire cost.”
The QuickPass system also provides developers, architects and builders with real-time data about a hauler’s load that management can use for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications as well as other administrative requirements.
Green Acres also has streamlined the drop-off process by allowing haulers to dispose of their materials without the hassle of sorting them — a practice Lientz said is required by many similar facilities, saving builders seeking LEED certifications the hassle of hiring a project manger to oversee recycling operations.
“We say co-mingle (the materials) in one (pile), drop it in a can and send it over. That’s the way we want it,” he said.
And that’s why local businesses such as J.T. Turner Construction Company are attracted to Green Acres’ business model.
“The service that (Green Acres) offers is that everything goes into one dumpster and goes to his facility,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, J.T, Turners’s director of preservation. “So, the benefit for the contractor is here on site. I don’t have to worry about anything but one dumpster. And I don’t have to police it. I don’t have to have signage. I don’t have to check it before it gets picked up, and, with competitive rates, I have to ask myself why not.”
He added that it is easy for improper materials to find their way into a dumpster that has been designated for recyclables.
“If the (haulers) pick up a can and it’s contaminated, it doesn’t get diverted — even if it is 98 percent proper material,” Fitzpatrick said. “If it is a contaminated load, they will then go to the landfill. So, all of your good efforts get wasted.”
As land becomes increasingly scarce, Fitzpatrick expects landfill dumping prices to rise and believes there will be greater demand for the type of services Lientz’s company provides.
“He has recognized value in the trash and is extracting that value,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s capitalizing on that to help keep his costs competitive as opposed to just dumping it into the ground … I think he is in the right place at the right time.”
Although J.T. Turner finds the economics of using Green Acres services attractive, Fitzpatrick said the company also feels an obligation to promoting a cleaner environment.
“But, if we don’t have to pay extra to do the right thing,” he said, “then why wouldn’t everybody.”
Not only is Green Acres giving new life to building materials, the company is providing opportunities for local residents who have become products of the correctional system.
“We are all about second-chances … About 65 to 75 percent of our employees are second-chance employees,” Lientz said.
“We have created 22 to 23 local jobs, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and rescuing valuable commodities to put back into the market and supporting local business,” Lientz said. “The goal here is to hopefully over the years develop a greater percentage of the market in tonnage by locals who see benefit in the value-added service that we provide.”
RIBBON CUTTING SCHEDULED
Green Acres Recycling Facility, 1901 Louisville Road, will hold its official ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 8th at 10 a.m.