Louisiana recycling operation uses Volvo EC290B excavators to dismantle retired barges
Independence, La. - It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention. For Butch Caton, owner of Modern American Recycling Services, it wasn't so much necessity that caused him to start his steel reclamation operation in 1971. It was survival.
"I was young, had just gotten married and needed to eat," said Caton, whose Louisiana based company has grown into one of the top firms for river barge recycling in the U.S.
At any one time there are thousands of plate-steel barges floating on American's waterways, each transporting a unique load between river ports. Eventually, these barges rust out, begin to leak and are no longer suitable for use on the water.
That's where Caton, Modern American Recycling Services and the firm's fleet of Volvo crawler excavators step in.
"We use the Volvo excavators to scrap out barges that have been retired, either by the operators or the U.S. Coast Guard," Caton said of the single-hulled vessels used to transport goods on the U.S. rivers.
Caton said his operators use the company's Volvo EC290B excavators throughout the entire operation: from pulling the barges out of the water to "tearing them apart" to lifting and loading the final steel sections onto barges and trucks for transport.
Modern American Recycling Services, based in Independence, La., has two scrap operations in Louisiana and another in Paducah, Ky., though Caton said his recycling business covers the entire U.S. And, while the firm is geared up to perform what Caton calls "generalized scrap operations," it is the barge business that has become big business for Modern American.
The entire barge recycling process, which Caton's crews have streamlined from 90 days to a single business day, begins and ends with a Volvo EC290B excavator.
Modern American purchases the retired barges and sells the scrap plate steel to mills, which melt it and typically roll it into new steel plates. Before any of that is accomplished, operators use an EC290B to pull the barges out of the water by attaching a cable between the barge and the eye on the EC290B's stick.
It takes about 20 minutes to get the barges on shore, each barge weighing about 250 tons. "The EC290B handles that with no problem at all," Caton said.
Once on land, workers using acetylene torches cut the barges into smaller sections, which are grabbed by the Volvo excavator, equipped with a hydraulic thumb attachment and 2-yard bucket. Each of those sections weighs between 6 to 7.5 tons, Caton said.
The disassembled sections are cut down further, to a size of about 2-feet by 4-feet, at which time operators use the EC290B to grab the finished pieces and load them for transport to a steel recycling facility. Caton said crews also use the EC290B to remove steel floor beams from inside a barge's hull. "The Volvo grabs them with the thumb and bucket and we just 'wiggle' them until they come loose," he said.