Case Study

Fabric Structures as Cost-Effective Solutions in Recycling Applications

In these times where no portion of a budget can be squandered, it is important to consider the most economical way to implement physical plant upgrades. Whether for equipment or materials storage, container covers or job-site facilities, fabric buildings have proven to be a smart choice for recycling facilities.

Jaime Gleba

With regulations becoming increasingly stringent and budgets continuing to shrink, recycling and other solid waste facilities are looking for innovative solutions for physical plant upgrades. In order to reduce processing costs and protect the environment, many treatment plant operators are choosing tension fabric buildings.

Glass Recycling – Covered Containers

Tension fabric buildings, or fabric structures, are a unique and economical method for covering containers of unprocessed material for recycling. Without protection from the elements, rain and other precipitation can cause runoff from unprocessed materials and potentially harm the surrounding environment. While processors have traditionally chosen metal structures for this purpose, there are many benefits to choosing tension fabric buildings for this application.

Fabric in Action: Kansas City, MO

Without a curbside glass recycling program, the residents of Kansas City, MO were throwing away 150 million pounds of glass a year. Only 5 percent of its glass was being recycled (well under the U.S. average of 30 percent) because Kansas City lacked a local glass processor. The owner and founder of a Kansas City-based brewery knew that this yearly waste included an estimated 10 million empty bottles from his brewery. With the support of local companies and organizations, he started up a recycling center that processes glass to sell as furnace-ready cullet to a local customer to be turned into fiberglass.

To stay true to the environmentally friendly nature of this new business, he recognized the need to cover the containers of untreated glass to prevent ground seepage and effluent from getting into the Missouri River. After researching the best options for covering these containers, he chose an 83’W x 40’L ClearSpan (South Windsor, CT) Hercules Truss Arch Building. The structure was installed directly over the existing glass containers. One end was left open to allow easy access for trucks and forklifts. Since its start in 2009, the glass recycling company has grown exponentially; their recognizable purple containers can be spotted throughout the city, and locals are actively participating in the new recycling program.

Why Fabric Works for Kansas City

As this Kansas City glass recycler found, a fabric building is a cost-effective way to keep precipitation off unprocessed glass. With no expensive concrete foundations required, a fabric structure was easily installed over the existing containers, saving time and money during installation.

With the high clearance of this structure and no interior support poles, this glass recycler is able to load and unload materials with no difficulty. The clear-span design of tension fabric structures means that equipment can maneuver with ease. Delivery and removal times are quicker, which offers another cost-saving benefit.

Tension Fabric-Covered Tipping Floors

Another application for fabric buildings in the waste management industry is covering tipping areas. Whether a processor is environmentally conscious or complying with regulations to prevent groundwater contamination and litter, choosing to cover unloading and sorting areas does not have to be a costly endeavor.

Fabric in Action: Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc.

Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc. ranks among the nation’s largest privately owned waste and recycling companies. With strong respect for the environment, the company has found success owning and operating several landfills, transfer stations and recycling facilities throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. In 2010, Rumpke began a $2.5 million renovation to its downtown Columbus material recovery facility. This included a complete demolition and an addition to its tipping floor area, which meant that recyclable materials were stored outdoors.

Currently, there are no regulations in Ohio prohibiting the practice of leaving recyclable materials uncovered; however, the company was uncomfortable with that precedent. Rumpke engineer Dave Murphy explains, “We knew we could leave the materials exposed, but did not want to be a nuisance for the neighbors; papers and plastics could blow into their yards. Plus, the process runs better with dry materials and we wanted to maintain a clean facility by keeping the materials out of the elements.” Murphy was looking for a progressive solution to his problem when he turned to fabric buildings.

After researching this type of building, Murphy chose ClearSpan because of their customized building options, quick construction timelines and durable structures. “We continuously have large equipment unloading materials at the recycling facility. We needed a lot of clearance, especially for our back hopper which requires a height of 28′ to 30′, and we have an IT loader that scoops up materials then loads them onto our conveyor system,” explains Murphy.

Rumpke purchased a 120′ wide by 45′ long Hercules Truss Arch Building to serve as a cover for their material recovery facility.

Why Fabric Works for Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc.

Because Rumpke was in the process of renovating, they needed a quick solution that would not interrupt daily business. They used ClearSpan’s installation crew and the structure was installed in a week and a half. Due to the ease of construction, the company was able to keep operations running smoothly throughout the process.

Once Rumpke finished renovating, the company no longer required the fabric building as a temporary cover for their tipping area. One advantage of fabric buildings that made them the best choice for this situation is that they are versatile and can be relocated. Murphy explains, “We knew at the time of purchase it would need to serve other functions.” Rumpke plans on using this structure as a storage facility for either overflow at a glass building, or for heavy equipment at a landfill.

Other Applications for Fabric Buildings at Recycling Facilities

Fabric buildings are rising in popularity in many industries and for many applications, and not without reason. Because these structures are more cost effective than metal buildings, and offer greater durability than fiberglass structures, they are often chosen for permanent or temporary structure solutions.

Many find that tension fabric structures are generally low in cost per square foot, for a smaller initial investment over traditional structures. These structures also allow users to save on construction costs because installation timelines are often shorter than a week. Since fabric buildings have minimal foundation requirements, costly concrete foundations are not necessary.

In these times where no portion of a budget can be squandered, it is important to consider the most economical way to implement physical plant upgrades. Whether for equipment or materials storage, container covers or job-site facilities, fabric buildings have proven to be a smart choice for recycling facilities.

ClearSpan Fabric Structures is a leading manufacturer of tension fabric buildings. Headquartered in South Windsor, CT, with manufacturing facilities located in Dyersville, IA, all structures are made in the U.S. ClearSpan specialists guide customers through the process and communicate with in-house design, engineering and manufacturing teams. For more information, call (866) 643-1010 or visit