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Textile Plant Demolition Becomes Huge Recycling Effort

Wed March 01, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

KANNAPOLIS, NC (AP) Demolition of the massive Pillowtex Corp. textile plant is giving new life to more than just the former job site.

As workers of the D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co. of Greensboro knock down the century-old plant to make room for the $1-billion North Carolina Research Campus, they salvage building materials — brick, wood and steel — with the promise of use elsewhere.

Some of the 10 million bricks they will recover will be used to rebuild houses destroyed by hurricanes last year in Alabama and Mississippi. Others will be recycled as keepsakes for sentimental former workers, while broken brick and concrete will be crushed into 400,000 tons (363,000 t) of gravel.

In all, approximately 500,000 tons (454,000 t) of material — approximately 80 percent of what’s at the site — will be recycled from the approximately 6-million-sq.-ft. (558,000 sq m) plant, from bricks to steel beams and maple flooring, said David Griffin, the company’s vice president.

Griffin has a crew of 80 employees working six days a week at the site. He expected to stay there for another 18 months.

“You get to fulfill every young boy’s dream and tear stuff down,” he said, “and your mama doesn’t holler at ya.”

For Griffin, it’s not even the biggest job his firm has managed. D.H. Griffin also managed the cleanup of the World Trade Center site in New York, which included 1.7 million tons (1.5 million t) of material. But more material is being recycled at the Pillowtex site, he said.

Mike Taylor, executive director of the National Demolition Association, said the Pillowtex project was one of the largest — and potentially most lucrative — in the country.

“He’s probably sitting on a gold mine,” Taylor said.

Griffin estimated the value of the Pillowtex project at several million dollars, but declined to be more specific.

Heart pine wood from the ceiling beams can sell for as much as $20 per square foot. Scrap steel can fetch $200 per ton, and medium-grade scrap aluminum goes for approximately 50 cents a pound.

Griffin said he has sold scrap metal in Alabama and Virginia and shipped some heart pine to New York. Nucor Corp., which is based in nearby Charlotte, has bought some steel.

Griffin, whose great-grandfather once worked for Pillowtex’s predecessor, Cannon Mills, plans to use some of the reclaimed wood for his company’s new headquarters.

Some former plant workers have even stopped by to pick up a single brick as a souvenir.

Archie Menscer worked for 50 years at Cannon Mills and his wife, Kathleen, worked there for 45 years. They stopped by the site last summer to get a brick.

“I just like to have something to remember it by,” said Menscer. “Fifty years is almost a lifetime.”

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