HG: SustainAbility Column May 02, 2009

Long before you could recycle paper and plastic products in Grand Junction, you could get paid to recycle metal at Van Gundy’s and you still can.

Founded in 1929, the company incorporated in 1964 as AMPCO Inc., which has evolved into Van Gundy’s AMPCO Inc. In 2006, the facility relocated to 645 Fourth Ave. to make room for Riverside Parkway.

Holly Evans is the customer relation’s manager and educational facilitator for Van Gundy’s.

She gave me a tour of the facility and a crash course in metal recycling.

Fortunately, the current location with a little over five acres has plenty of room for the extensive operation. It takes a lot of space to crush cars, move big hunks of metal and store materials until the price is right.

“You can’t stay in business all these years unless you’re selling at better than break even,” Evans said.

Machines are fueled onsite and maintained at Van Gundy’s own shop.

The 25 employees are busy meeting the metal recycling needs of our community and working with nearby landfills. Van Gundy’s processes metals annually at Garfield, Eagle and Rulison landfills.

In 2008, the company recycled nearly a million pounds of aluminum, more than half a million pounds of copper and more than 5 1/2 million pounds of appliances.

During that year, more than 14 million pounds of automobiles were recycled, the equivalent of 5,726 cars.

Van Gundy’s deals in all types of metals, except for gold and silver. Metals are divided into two broad categories: ferrous and non-ferrous. The two types of metal are handled in different areas of the facility.

Ferrous metal has iron content and is magnetic. Metals that are not magnetic fall into the other classification.

Non-ferrous metals include all types of stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper, among others. Rare metals such as carbide and tungsten also fall into this category.

Of course, you can recycle aluminum cans, but you can also recycle other aluminum products including bats, pots and pans, pistons and radiators. You can even recycle aluminum foil and other disposable aluminum products for a few cents per pound.

Evans guesstimated about 65 percent of the metal they recycle comes from industry.

Some examples are litho plate from newspapers and printing companies and metal mill turnings, a manufacturing byproduct.

Plumbing fittings and bullet casings are popular brass items. Lead pipes can be recycled, as well as other forms of the metal. Copper is often in sheet, pipe or wire form.

A broad range of wire is recycled through Van Gundy’s. Stripped wire always brings a higher price and you can even use their stripping machine before you turn in your wire. Some wire, like a variety nicknamed “jelly wire,” is almost impossible to strip. The employees only strip high recovery wire.

There are more kinds of wire than you can shake a stick at and each type has its own box where it lives until it is shipped. Barbed wire is a no-no.

The first cavernous building is affectionately known as the Metals Building where all non-ferrous metal is sorted as it is unloaded, so it can be weighed separately for different rates. A small shear is used to dissemble some products made from multiple materials.

There are huge boxes, bins and concrete areas used to hold a large variety and grades of metal. This building also houses a baler, which crunches some items into blocks and automatically binds them with wire.

Nearby, two other buildings store metals in boxes and bales until they are ready for shipping.

Aluminum breakage is a mix of steel and aluminum. There is a special baler for this product that will be shipped to a mill, which will shred the material and separate the steel out with a magnet.

The ferrous side of the yard handles appliances, car bodies, motors, tin and structural steel such as I-beams, pipe, H-beams and angle iron.

It takes big equipment to deal with the ferrous metal. Van Gundy’s has two Komatsu shears that “cut through steel like butter,” according to Evans.

Caterpillar equipment, one with a magnet and another with a grapple, sort and move the ferrous metal. Four heavy-duty forklifts also move materials.

A rail spur on the property is used to ship about four rail cars a month of small-piece usable steel to Nucor in Utah where it will be manufactured into structural steel for commercial or residential building. All other items are shipped by the truckload.

One piece of equipment, a Sierra, bales small cars, appliances and thin ferrous metal.

During the summer, 10–15 semi loads will be filled each week from the Sierra alone, Evans said.

The only appliance requiring special attention before arriving at the facility is a refrigerator.

Fridges must be “certified evacuated” meaning the Freon has been removed by a certified technician.

The car crusher, called “Mac,” can flatten multiple stacked vehicles and wrap the package in netting. Before compression, all vehicles visit the drain rack.

Van Gundy’s has an area where used tires are sold and a salvage area for usable steel. This contains steel for fence rails to drill pipes for oilrigs with lots of materials in between.

When you visit for the first time, Evans recommends parking and going to the office to learn the ropes.

To find out more information about Van Gundy’s, call 242-9500 or go to vangundysrecycling.com.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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