In part 3 of our series, we talk with Jon Young from the Hawaii Asphalt Paving Industry to take a look at the project from his perspective.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 4, Episode 4: Paving with Recycled Plastic – Hawaii’s Pilot Project - Part 3
Recorded: November 28, 2022
Released: June 20, 2023
Hosts: Brian Jonson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager; Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source
Guest: Jon Young, Executive Director of Hawaii Asphalt Paving Industry
Transcription is auto-generated.
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00:00:02 ANNOUNCER: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials, testing, and inspection with people in the know from exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you. Now here’s our host, Brian Johnson.
00:00:21 BRIAN: To continue our discussion on the innovative project using recycled materials on an asphalt roadway in Hawaii, I've invited Jon Young, the Executive Director of the Hawaii Asphalt Paving Industry or HAPI on to talk about his involvement in this partnership.
00:00:37 BRIAN: Welcome to the podcast, Jon.
00:00:38 JON: Thanks for having me.
00:00:40 BRIAN: Before we get into too many questions about this project, I think it would be good for people to get to know HAPI a little bit, can you tell us about your organization?
00:00:46 JON: Sure, we represent the paving contractors and contractors that do paving treatments. Part of my background design, so we want to include the designers because we feel that you need a good plan in order to do a good project. But with bad plans, no matter how good the contractor is it, it's just not going to come out good. Over the years, we've encouraged consultants to feel free to come and ask us questions. And of course, if I don't know how to answer myself, I have enough resources out there to answer your questions. And we have about 80 Members now. It grew from 25 when I started 11 years ago to 80, so that's a pretty good increase.
00:01:25 BRIAN: Well, in your members are paving companies.
00:01:29 JON: So, the main members are what we call the Active members. And they are asphalt producers and binder suppliers. So, we have one binder supplier as a member and seven producers. And in the islands right now, there are 9 producers and two asphalt binder suppliers. And then the other thing that is in Hawaii is that everybody that produces mostly produces for themself. I mean, they do sell to other lay down contractors, but most of the production is for their own projects.
00:02:00 BRIAN: So, they're producing and doing the paving now. How did you get involved with this project?
00:02:07 JON: OK so, we want to be partners with the DOT. We do. And because Kristi, who you interviewed a while back, we have known each other for a long time. And so when she got in her position as the state bituminous engineer. That was already a, you know, built in relationship. And so, we got in and you know, we're not trying to really tell the DOT how to do anything, but we're there to help them.
00:02:32 BRIAN: Did the DOT reach out to you or how did you get drawn into it?
00:02:37 JON: I think it just kind of came up in conversation and it really started with someone else in the lab section, Brandon Hee. He wanted to shred fish nets. Shred them and throw them in the drum and get them in the mix that way. But we told them that would be difficult. So, after a while we found somebody that processed plastic waste into pellets or whatever it be - flakes. And so, we got there and then we found MacRebur and Green Mantra, who both produced a plastic additive. But unfortunately, the goal was to have the plastic waste used come from the US. So, we had to find a company that use US plastic waste and we found them in NewRoad and introduced them to Kristi and it sounded good, and it just worked out just fine.
00:03:25 BRIAN: So, this is just regular conversations that you were having. You were able to solve this problem together. Is this just a normal, I mean, do you have regular meetings where you talk about these things? So, just you work with each other all the time
00:03:36 JON: So, my goal is to have regular meetings to discuss these things. And we kind of had a spec committee for a while in my eleven years, but actually Kristi and I talk to each other like two to three times a week. So, things just happen, you know. She asked me - well, what about this or how could we do that and I give her my ideas on how you could implement it or how to make sure it stays on schedule.
00:04:02 BRIAN: You are the executive director of an association that has members who are in competition with each other, right? So, how do you fairly act as an intermediary when there is a discussion about a project like this? And then you say, oh boy, I've. And all these association members, how did you end up getting the member that worked on it? Or I mean, how does that process work?
00:04:26 JON: Grace Pacific, who was the member in the project. They were chosen by the DOT, and it's because they already had an existing contract that they could easily contract it. As for me, Brian, that's a good question, because I think one of my abilities I have to have is to facilitate discussion so that we come to a mutual understanding. I like to call myself member neutral. I really don't favor one member over the other. And uh, it's worked through the years. I think it's just my personal philosophy of being collaborative; let's discuss things and come to agreement. The other thing too is every now and then I express my opinion, but the way I see my job is to get agreement, by the directors and them to implement what they like to do.
00:05:10 BRIAN: That's a very diplomatic answer, and it shows that you have quite a bit of experience leading groups to a conclusion that brings in all of the different interests right. Now here's the other complication. As executive director of this association, you are not the person with the plant and the paver and the rollers and all of that. How do you help keep communication going so that milestones are met on the project for completion of this, the way the DOT Wants it to be done.
00:05:42 JON: I'm not that familiar with how other associations do it, but in Hawaii I don't really get too involved in the contract details because I'm not a negotiator for the contractor. Because then I'd have to choose one contractor to negotiate over and so forth. But what happens if something comes up where it might be a situation on a project. But it's something that would affect the industry as a whole. Then we go to bat. You know, if there's an industry issue come up, even if it's on a specific contract, you know I'll take charge and help lead it. I'm like the single voice for the industry so they don't all have to go to the DOT or the City to negotiate changes.
00:06:23 BRIAN: Now let's talk more about the nitty gritty details with this. What kind of feedback did you hear from the paving contractor about working with the material?
00:06:33 JON: I think they found it to be about the same and just looking at their work going down, it did look about the same. You didn't see like any more smoke coming up from the pavement or anything. You in fact, you probably, if you didn't know they were using plastic additive and that mix you probably wouldn't have known the difference.
00:06:50 BRIAN: Wow, that's impressive. I did see a couple of news clips on it and they took videos of the different people working on it and granted it was after it was paved, but everybody looked pretty satisfied and happy. You know, they had like clips of the workers driving in the truck or the people working on the paver, and they all seemed fine. I mean they, they well, of course it was. I'm sure they if somebody didn't, they probably wouldn't have put that in the news clip. But I was kind of surprised to see how happy everyone looked.
00:07:19 JON: I think you know that part of it that helped is on the Monday before the Tuesday when we did it on the job site, they did like a practice, a control strip at the plant to see how things would work, get the temperatures right and all that. So, I think that helped make the Tuesday performance go much smoother for everybody.
00:07:41 BRIAN: Now I guess that your members are thinking about where this is going now that that one project was done and how it might factor into the future of asphalt construction in Hawaii. I’m going to ask you to look into your crystal ball here for a minute. Would you be OK offering a prediction and how this project will play into future developments In Hawaii?
00:08:00 JON: Well, maybe not so much of a prediction, Brian, but in general, it has to kind of makes sense economically although I do know some people say if it's going to be green or sustainable, it's worth whatever X number dollars. Another thing, it definitely has to make the world better. So, one thing we're hoping is that the DOT will monitor the performance of the road before it they try something else. And we're not, you know, again, we're not trying to tell the DOT what to do or what not to do. We're just trying to help them implement it smoothly as possible. But we think it's great the DOT is so innovative.
00:08:36 BRIAN: Kim, I've been hogging all the questions with Jon. What kind of questions do you have?
00:08:41 KIM: What surprised you about this process of working in this project?
00:08:46 JON: I know before me there was a really good person at the DOT that brought the industry together. But I think this is the first time where we truly work together, you know, trying to figure out problems. And I try to tell people that I might work for the industry, but I'm not thinking about if it's good for the industry. I'm trying to think if it's good for the community. I truly just want to see the project go well and so I really try to listen to what DOT is trying to do and help them implement it. And if I think they're doing something that is not, you know, too workable, you know, I'll share with them and I think maybe if we looked at it this way, we could do it a little better.
00:09:25 BRIAN: So, Jon, we do appreciate your time today and I wanted to give you a chance to tell our listeners something about HAPI and what's going on there because I know you're, you work hard. I started getting your newsletters since I started interacting with you recently. And there's a lot going on. See how busy you are and all the efforts that you're putting into communicating what's happening in the asphalt industry and why do you want to share anything?
00:09:50 JON: I think the better we can educate consultants, the better we are because if you knew how little I knew when I started, you'd be surprised that they hired me. I even told them that, you know, I said I don't know anything. And they said that's OK you can learn. But I think you know, as far as education, we did a couple of things in 2015, we started on annual training program of three courses, one with Geosynthetics, one with best practices for asphalt pavements, and then one of my favorites, understanding the job mix formula submittal because I can tell you when engineers look at that, they just look at the graduation. And boom, OK looks good. But I wanted them to have a little bit of understanding of it and so I did it annually because when I went around to the government agencies, they said like, oh, you know what, we cannot Jon because we didn't budget for it. So, I said, OK, I'm going to tell a year in advance it's coming to your island. I listen, I appreciate people making comments like that because that gives me the opportunity to address. And then I just like presenting.
00:10:49 JON: And so I started that weekly, Wednesday, HAPI shorts and that's just covers a lot of different subjects. And we get, I bring in guest speakers. And amazingly, it doesn't get a lot of people I see on average less ten. The guest speakers bring in people. The thing that really amazes me is the target audience is Hawaii, whether we get the other states joining in. Two of our most frequent attendees are from California. And then we also have somebody . . . where we still get people from the Middle East when I started back in 2020 I guess now. But now the two people that come out all the time and somebody from Serbia and somebody from Ukraine. And it's kind of nice because after the session is over, sometimes we just stay on and we just, you know, chat about whatever. And so I really like that. I want to make the industry comfortable to people and what you said Brian about the information. So, some of my friends in the consulting world they said, well, you didn't know anything so much about the paving industry, until you start doing your newsletters and stuff. So that’s great.
00:11:53 BRIAN: Yeah, and these HAPI shorts are available to anyone. Well, we will. We'll make sure we put a link to that in our podcast and you told me this story, and I think it's an interesting one, how you came up with calling your organization HAPI.
00:12:09 JON: So, what happened? When I started, I went into interview and then I told the Members I couldn't even find our website and they said, well, that's your first job is to make it. Come to the top. I said OK, but anyway I went to make a meeting and they, you know, and then I know our members called it hoppy, hoppy. But I went to meeting and people started calling it happy (HAPI) and I asked one person why, and it's because you're always smiling. It has to be HAPI. And so we just went on from there like, you know, we used it for HAPI holidays and it's just, it just started to be a wonderful thing. And I shared with the directors that, you know, and I didn't mean any offense to them but if people feel comfortable calling HAPI and they like it, then why not?
00:12:56 BRIAN: I know I like it. Certainly, a positive spin on whatever you're doing, so people need that. So, alright. Well, thank you so much Jon for your time. We appreciate your insight. It sounds like you're doing a great job with HAPI and helping spread the word about what your industry is up to and the benefits of it.
00:13:17 JON: Thank you. I just think it's amazing how our small state can reach out so far to the mainland, you know, so we appreciate it when people do reach out to us.
00:13:27 KIM: I think it's great that you are willing to share. I mean, I feel like we've had people from Hawaii on more than any other state on this podcast, that's for sure. So, even with the time difference, your guys’ willingness to be a part of this conversations, you know, at this level I think is amazing. So, thank you for that.
00:13:45 JON: Most welcome.
00:13:48 KIM: This is the third episode in our four-part series. If you've missed the other two, I recommend you go back and check it out, but what's coming up for our last episode in this series?
00:14:01 BRIAN: And next week is going to give you an idea of why this is so important, which gets into some of the environmental impacts of plastic in pavements. We're going to talk to Doctor Jennifer Lynch, and she's going to tell us about some things you may not have known about plastic debris and road. And what kind of tests are conducted and what the impacts could be? So, stick around for that one next week.
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