Meeting Our Environmental Responsibilities

Environmental sustainability is more than the right thing to do, it’s good business. Environmental compliance, resource efficiencies, reductions, and recycling are integral to our sustainability program. Conservation and stewardship programs influence the way we work with the land beyond our primary use. In partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council, we work to promote biodiversity and establish native landscapes whenever possible. We view environmental sustainability as an important part of our business, an opportunity to reduce our environmental impact, and a way to ensure the responsible use of the lands on which we operate.

Read on to learn more about our initiatives.

Proving value in reuse and recycling

Our recycling program extends across all lines of our business, from water usage, production and business waste, fuels, fleet vehicles, and post-consumer waste in offices. Every company at Summit Materials manages their business waste, and recycling inputs to better maximize the use of recycled materials to reduce costs and resources. This is an integral part of our commitment to positively impact our environment and reduce waste in our operations. As a part of our business waste management program, we routinely monitor and evaluate the waste that we generate, post-consumer waste inputs, and continue to look for new methods to reduce, reuse, and recycle in our operations and office locations. The information below provides details about how our recycling program affects each of our lines of business, and check out the sustainability report for annual metrics on recycling efforts.

Alternate Fuel Usage in Cement Manufacturing:

Green America Recycling, a subsidiary of Continental Cement Company, is dedicated to sourcing and reusing alternative and hazardous waste as a fuel source in our cement kilns. This alternative fuel usage offsets our total energy pull by an average of 35% annually. This program reduces our non-renewable energy use, and recycles fuels that are waste products from other industries.

Water Usage and Recycling:

Summit Materials frequently recycles water in our aggregates and ready-mix businesses, with a focus on geographic regions with water scarcity and water cost concerns. Our heaviest water users are aggregate plants, which use water for dust suppression, and ready-mix concrete, which uses water to activate cement in the product and to wash out trucks after deliveries. Summit Materials' water recycling efforts aims to keep water in closed loop systems so that the water can be repeatedly used without regularly pulling from and adding to municipal, or natural water systems.

Recycling Concrete:

Recycling concrete is another meaningful way for Summit Materials' aggregates and ready-mix businesses to recycle. We do this by re-crushing waste concrete and by putting returned product to good use. Concrete roads or lots that need to be resurfaced are excavated and the material can then be re-crushed and used as road base in place of virgin material. Other methods include creating blocks with concrete returns and/or washing concrete to extract valuable aggregate material. Recycling-Asphalt

Recycling Asphalt:

Asphalt is typically composed of a mixture of 5% asphalt binder (also known as asphalt cement), and 95% aggregate (stone, sand, and gravel). Asphalt pavement can be safely and efficiently reused many times over through the process of recycling. As roadways and infrastructure degrade, the asphalt layer can be milled off the road, ground up and used again as a fine aggregate, which then becomes a percentage of the binder in a new asphalt mix for a new project or to repave the original road. The use of Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) and Recycled Asphalt Shingles (RAS) is limited only by the specifications of the project engineers and application. Our companies use RAP and RAS whenever possible to limit the amount of binder that must be refined and purchased and extend the lifecycle of the product. On an annual basis, we reuse hundreds of thousands of tons of asphalt.

Check out our annual sustainability report for up-to-date metrics on usage.

Generating and Managing our Waste

Waste generation is something we constantly work to reduce. This is achieved, for example, through office initiatives like reducing paper usage through automated HR programs, and finding new ways to recycle and reuse car parts like retreading tires and reusing oil barrels. These procedures are carried out in accordance with environmental compliance laws and regulations, and are often are an additional work-load on our teams, but greatly help in our commitment to reducing our footprint.

We take the creation of all waste, including hazardous material very seriously, and handle these materials in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Green America Recycling, LLC, a subsidiary, manages our use of liquid and solid hazardous waste as alternative fuels in cement manufacturing.

The majority of our operations outside of cement manufacturing are considered ‘small quantity generators’ of hazardous waste. For these operations, the bulk of our hazardous waste comes from the maintenance of our equipment and rolling fleet. Used oil is recycled with verified third parties, barrels, which contained oil, are reused, recycled, or properly disposed of, and solvents and car parts associated with equipment maintenance are disposed of in a careful and lawful manner.

Hamm Inc, an operating company outside of Lawrence, KS, opened a single stream recycling center in 2014, called the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). On an annual basis, the MRF returns tens of millions of pounds of trash which would otherwise have been disposed of in a landfill, back to markets around the world as usable materials. The MRF prides itself on being incredibly clean, well-operated, and an important part of the community in Lawrence, KS. They give regular tours of the operations and enjoy working with University of Kansas and local area high school students on innovative ideas to reduce waste.

Biodiversity and Land Conservation

The way we see it, every acre of land that we manage has potential beyond its primary use. That’s why Summit Materials is dedicated to conserving our land by promoting biodiversity through the development of wildlife habitat; and then, using this restored habitat as an educational tool to benefit our communities. In 2014, we began a partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to advance these efforts in land and wildlife conservation. For 30 years, WHC has promoted and certified habitat conservation and management on corporate lands. The WHC Conservation Certification program was developed to be an accessible, credible, and change driving program through the application of strict requirements and a rigorous third-party evaluation. Since Summit Materials began its partnership with WHC, our conservation efforts and subsequent certified habitat programs have expanded to include thousands of managed acres. From planting pollinator gardens, to encouraging avian species, each of our Conservation Certification programs is composed of unique projects that are driven by the site’s landscape, the team’s objectives, and an understanding of high-value biodiversity areas. Land-Conservation The partnership with WHC ensures that all projects have definitive goals, are managed for the best possible outcomes, and are built on the foundations of biodiversity enhancement, ecology, and employee-community engagement. We work with state biologists and agencies, local environmental organizations, and national organizations to gain input on effective, impactful projects to implement, what species to target, and how to best accomplish these tasks with our resources. All of our projects begin with our employees’ boots on the ground and critical local partnerships.   50% of our operating companies have a program that is currently certified through the WHC Conservation Certification, and three of these programs have the silver designation. We have employees across our operating companies who dedicate time and energy to helping build these projects outside of their dedicated scope of work. Their commitment to these projects, the land, and their communities is valuable beyond measure.

To learn more about our WHC projects check out our annual Sustainability Report.

Natural Resource Improvements and Efficiencies

Reducing natural resource usage is a top priority at Summit Materials. We have worked to initiate many effective programs across our different lines of business that demonstrate our commitment to efficiencies and improvements in the use of our resources and reductions in our emissions. Our projects are completed with the intention of reducing costs, environmental impact, and improving our operations and local communities.  

Transitioning from Diesel Generators to the Power Grid:

In our aggregates business, we have transitioned more than 15 of our permanent locations from generator use to the electrical power grid; thus, reducing our on-site emissions and equipment maintenance. These types of changes decrease the noise decibels, and improve the safety, health, and the general working and living conditions of our employees and surrounding communities. Nearly 60% of our quarries, currently in operation, run their crushing equipment on power from the grid. The remaining facilities on generator power are generally not permanent, and therefore, regularly need the ability to move the equipment from place to place.  

Transporting Aggregate Material by Barge, Rail, and Conveyor.

In an effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and to the extent possible, we transport our aggregate products long distances by barge or rail. For example, our cement operations barge or rail close to 60% of their cement along the Mississippi River to terminals as far south as New Orleans and as far north to Minneapolis. Mainland Construction Materials ULC, our Vancouver, BC-based company, transports nearly 65% of their aggregate by barge and rail. Since 2015, we have installed conveyors at more than 10 new locations across the country, not to mention the scores of other sites that are already using this more efficient method of transporting rock. Conveyor systems reduce the need for moving rocks long distances with loaders and dump trucks; reducing dust, noise, and using energy more efficiently at our quarries.  

Asphalt Plant Improvements

We have steadily reduced our greenhouse gas emissions at our asphalt plants in recent years by switching from burner fuel (mainly recycled used oil) to natural gas. This reduction allows our asphalt plants to maintain the same levels of production with a cleaner burning fuel that emits less carbon dioxide.  

Our Rolling Fleet

Our ready-mix fleet has worked to optimize over-the-road travel, by using GreenRoad, a software program that helps us track, rate, and improve our drivers’ decisions, on-route optimization, and safety. On an annual basis, we invest millions of dollars into improving our over-the-road fleet and equipment. For every new vehicle that replaces a 20-30 year old piece of equipment, the average fuel efficiency and emissions drastically improve. In addition, our repair and maintenance program ensures all of our vehicles are operating at their best standards, to ensure safety, efficiency, and environmental benefit. We have started to transition to Hybrid loaders, and currently have seven John Deere 944K loaders working at our busiest quarries.   Cement-Plant-Energy

Continental Cement Energy Reduction Programs:

Continental Cement is a partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR certification program. This signifies that our Hannibal, MO plant was certified in both 2016 and 2018, by performing in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency, meeting strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA. Continental Cement has improved its energy performance by managing energy strategically across the entire organization and by making cost-effective improvements to its plant. At our Davenport plant, Continental Cement uses waste from surrounding industries to supply the added ingredients needed in cement manufacturing, (limestone, iron, silica, and aluminum) in lieu of a newly mined source for these compounds. This saves virgin sources of raw materials, and converts industrial waste into a useful product. On average, our cement plants get more than 35% of their total energy from alternative fuel sources. These are waste products, including liquid and solid hazardous waste, industrial waste, and used tires, all of which still contain useful amounts of BTU’s. Alternative fuels reduce the need for incineration or landfills (where these waste products would otherwise have been sent), and are directly replacing fossil fuels used to heat our cement kiln.