Power Partners

Flanked by cubes of 60-lb. and 80-lb. plastic packaged dry mix, representatives from Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. and Quikrete Cos., and Louisville,

Don Marsh

Flanked by cubes of 60-lb. and 80-lb. plastic packaged dry mix, representatives from Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. and Quikrete Cos., and Louisville, Ky., coal combustion products processor Charah Inc., gathered in mid-September to dedicate the industry’s first concrete-bagging facility sited at a live fly ash and bottom ash source. The operation is built at the AmerenUE Labadie (Mo.) power plant along the Missouri River, and supplies 24 St. Louis area Home Depot stores with Quikrete-branded dry mix using Charah packaging technology. In lieu of conventional paper sacks, Charah’s method employs 5.5-mm-thick plastic film packages; when sealed, they bear twin holes along the top and bottom portions that function as finger handles.

We like the cleaner packaging for the stores, and contractors like the plastic bagged product because they can leave it out over night and not have a brick the next day, Home Depot’s Building Materials Merchandising Vice President Giles Bowman tells Concrete Products. The sealed plastic bag is sturdy and the two handles make it easy for customers to lift and carry. At the same time this packaging is less likely to break than traditional paper bags.

Addressing the AmerenUE plant gathering, Bowman added, At Home Depot, we believe that being an environmentally responsible company builds shareholder value and is an indicator of business success. As an industry and global leader, we are committed to leveraging our influence in the markeplace Û with vendors, customers, associates and communities and in all our business operations Û to conserve natural resources.

Also on hand for the dedication were officials from Labadie plant owner, St. Louis-based Ameren Corp., and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The use of coal combustion products [CCPs] from this plant promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural resources by substituting [CCPs for] up to 50 percent of the total cement and aggregates in each bag of concrete, said EPA Region 7 representative Chet McLaughlin. EPA’s Strategic Plan sets forth the goal of increasing the beneficial use of CCPs to 50 percent by 2011, up from 40 percent in 2004 and 32 percent in 2001. The agency has also set a goal of increasing CCP use in concrete to 18 million tons by 2011, up from 12 million tons in 2001.

Supporting those targets, McLaughlin noted, the EPA established the Coal Combustion Product Partnership, or C2P2, within the agency’s Resource Conservation Challenge program. C2P2 has 140 members, among them Charah and Ameren, and cosponsors including the Federal Highway Administration and American Coal Ash Association. Charah’s processing methods to make bottom ash aggregates suited to dry mix concrete garnered a 2005 C2P2 award for innovation and CCP recycling.


The AmerenUE concrete packaging facility will initially use 60,000 tons of fly ash and bottom ash at varying replacement percentages in a range of mix offerings. Production is expected to increase so that eventually all of the power plant’s bottom ash will be recycled in packaged dry mix. The plant will offer 14 concrete products and supplement a Home Depot program supported by long-time Quikrete licensee Simpson Construction Materials, Valley Park, Mo.

Construction of the AmerenUE bagging plant coincided with Charah Inc. spinning off a subsidiary, Charah Dry Mix LLC. That entity is a joint-venture partner with Quikrete Cos. in the Missouri plant and an Emporia, Va., facility opened in spring 2005 to serve a 24-store Virginia Home Depot pilot. The Virginia plant is transitioning to Quikrete branding from an inaugural Project Mix line formulated with PriceLite, Charah’s processed lightweight bottom ash aggregate.

The joint venture leverages our innovation in bottom ash recycling, says Charah CEO Charles Price. We are fortunate to find such a partner to share our vision of conserving natural resources through recycling. We needed a strong brand to bring our product to market. Quikrete is the strongest.

Notes Quikrete Executive Vice President Dennis Winchester, We have mix design expertise to work with a variety of alternative cementitious and aggregate materials. By refining the original Virginia production scheme for the Missouri plant design, he adds, the plastic packaging method has become more economical.

Few can match Quikrete Cos. in recognizing how extra seconds, weight deviations and other dry mix concrete packaging metrics add up. Quikrete products are bagged throughout the Americas in 86 plants, 75 of them company owned, and the brand is the dry mix volume leader in U.S. Home Depot stores. The St. Louis and Virginia programs are providing Charah Dry Mix, Quikrete and Home Depot officials opportunity to evaluate customer response to the cleaner and more convenient packaging. In hard numbers, the companies are also measuring cost-benefit factors, especially concerning reduced product spoilage and in-store maintenance, tied to slight wholesale and retail premiums the plastic packaging carries over paper alternatives.