Shingle Recycling is Latest Growth Move for Illinois Roofing Company

For better than four decades now, Charles Copley Roofing has been serving customers in the Crystal Lake, Illinois, area as a roofing contractor and materials supplier. In that time, there have been two constants that have typified their approach to business: first, the philosophy that integrity is everything (summed up in their motto, “Our Word is Our Business”), and second, a push to continually expand into new and different markets. The latest example of that growth strategy, a foray into shingle grinding and recycling using a new Morbark 2600 Wood Hog Horizontal Grinder, is still in its formative stages. However, the company is already seeing a good deal of potential, an increased level of interest in the product they are creating, and a future that promises further growth.

A Bigger Picture

Located about 45 miles northwest of Chicago, Crystal Lake is a historic township that has seen its population nearly double between 1990 and 2000. In this setting, Charles Copley Roofing was established and dedicated to providing for the roofing needs of area residents. According to Charles Copley Sr., the company’s founder, that initially meant installing new roofs and handling re-roofing projects for both residential and commercial customers.

Copley_IMG_1624“My wife and I built this business from the ground up and, for the first 20 years or so, we focused only on the actual roofing portion of it. However, around 1989, a couple of things became evident to me. First, I wanted to have a company that my wife could run, should something happen to me. Roofers at that time were generally a rowdy bunch to deal with, so her continuing the roofing business wasn’t the answer. Second, I didn’t like the treatment we — and other area roofing companies — were getting from some of our material suppliers. I’m a firm believer that honest competition tends to bring out the best in a company, so we became a supplier ourselves. Today, we represent some of the biggest names in roofing material, flashing, shutters, solar tubes and more.”

That push to continually expand the range of their services eventually led to a crane rental business and, a decade ago, to a rolloff container operation. Copley says they founded that operation as a way to service both their own roofing business and their supply customers.

“Offering our customers rolloffs at no charge when they purchased shingles from us saved them money and eliminated them having to deal with a number of different companies. We wanted to become their one-stop shop, so to speak. We eventually expanded that service to contractors involved in construction and demolition projects.”

That rolloff business would prove to be the catalyst for still another operation — asphalt shingle recycling — which Copley would establish in 2008.

Taking Control

Copley_IMG_1597Nationwide, nearly 11 million tons of waste asphalt shingles are generated each year. As one of McHenry County’s larger roofing companies, Copley obviously generates its share of that total — as well as other debris — from its own projects. For years, the company was forced to simply landfill that material at its own expense. According to Copley, doing so was not only costly, it seemed counter-productive.

“There was a point where we were sending as many as five rolloffs per week to the landfill and paying roughly $400 per rolloff,” he says. “Although that was a huge expense, at the time we had the luxury of having a landfill about 10 minutes from our office. Today, allowing for traffic, a trip to the landfill is an hour and a half each way. That means we have a driver tied up for three hours, we are putting three hours of wear and tear on a truck, and we are burning three hours worth of fuel.”

For a time, Copley adds, they found a mulch processor nearby who agreed to take their wood waste for free, which cut down our costs a bit. “That was short-lived, however; he soon started charging us to take our debris, and we were right back where we started.”

Faced with these costs — and hounded by a sense that there had to be a better way — Copley decided to regroup and take matters into his own hands. That effort started with some intensive research into different ways to process the material he was collecting.

“I looked at every possible grinder and shredder on the market,” he says. “I quickly learned that almost anything made today can be reduced in size — for a price. But I didn’t need a machine that could reduce a car engine to scrap and cost a million dollars. I needed an affordable machine that could downsize wood and shingles, was easy to operate and wouldn’t kill us with maintenance issues. After more than a year and half of use, I feel we got all that in our Morbark 2600 Wood Hog.

More Than Wood

As the product name would indicate, the 2600 Wood Hog is designed for use with brush, yard waste and other mixed woody materials. Copley does, in fact, grind all of the construction wood it gathers from its rolloff operation, color it and make the mulch available to both the general public and area landscaping firms. However, the grinder’s design lends itself well for use with other materials including, as Copley is discovering, asphalt shingles.

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“The grinder has really performed well for us with the shingle operation,” says Charles Copley Jr., the company’s general manager. “Since we started that part of the business, we have probably processed better than 900 yards of shingles. We use a skid steer loader to feed the Morbark grinder, which takes the material down to a product in the 1½-inch range. As the downsized material exits the machine, it is run past a magnet to remove any nails that may have made it past the initial hand-sorting.”

The primary-ground material is fed into a rolloff box and then sent back for a second pass through the 2600, this time fitted with a ¾-inch screen needed to produce material in spec with Copley’s customer for the material.

The 2600, as supplied by Morbark, was equipped with a three-jet, water injection system to act as both a dust suppression tool and to keep temperatures of the shingle material down, thereby maintaining the integrity of the product necessary for recycling.

Efficiency is Key

Because it is still fairly new, Copley Sr. says the recycling facet of their operation is probably just a break-even proposition at this point. But they are continually refining the process to streamline it and improve efficiencies. Having the Morbark 2600 in place, says, has helped in that regard.

“Business today is so competitive that a company has to do everything it can to operate efficiently. The people who are looking at ways to save money and improve their operations are the ones that will be around a year from now. The Morbark 2600 is productive, reliable and efficient — it fits with that strategy very well.”

Hoping for Change

At the present time, all of Copley’s ground shingle material is being sent to an asphalt producer in neighboring Wisconsin. Copley Sr. is hopeful that Illinois will soon join the Badger State in accepting the material for in-state use.

“I think it’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” he says. “If people genuinely care about the environment and saving resources, it doesn’t make sense not to make use of this material. What we’re doing is no different than recycling cardboard or plastic, yet this state and others around the country are slow in seeing it that way.”

Copley says he sees their recycling operation as being about much more than just getting rid of waste or turning a profit.

“For me, it’s about helping ensure a decent environment for our kids’ future. Companies like us have to do something now — not later — so we’re proud we’ve taken the steps we have and hope others will follow our lead.”