Larry Griffin Sr., the namesake behind the 50-year-old auto repair chain, is one of the area's foremost trendsetters when it comes to waste solutions and recycling.
A month ago, he opened Greenway Recycling - a $3.5 million, 18,000-square-foot addition that created 12 full-time positions - on his 180-acre landfill near Harrisburg.
The addition is part of Griffin's company that opened in 1997 as the Highway 49 Construction and Demolition Landfill and Recycling Center. The center recycled about 60 percent of the 350 tons of waste it received each day. With the addition, that number is projected to jump 15 percentage points or more, extending the life of the landfill by at least 50 years.
The addition to the Cabarrus County facility is more than a year in the making, and the company plans to build a similar facility in Huntersville within five years. Griffin Brothers Companies is the umbrella company under which Greenway Waste Solutions LLC operates four other reclamation centers in the Carolinas that offer environmentally responsible construction and demolition debris management and disposal.
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They also work closely with the U.S. Green Building Council and Carolina Recycling Association to help builders attain LEED certification, a nationally accepted program used as a benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.
The company is in the middle of a rebranding effort and will change the landfill's name to better reflect its recycling operations. The new name, Greenway Waste Solutions at Harrisburg, will take effect within a month.
Larry and his son, Mike, say efforts like theirs are fairly new to the Southeast and are more popular in the Northeast, where open space is less common. The recent addition, they said, makes the Cabarrus County landfill the largest single-stream recycling operation in the Charlotte area.
Single-stream recycling allows clients - All Point Waste Services, Russo Waste Management, builders and contractors - to dump mixed bulk loads of new construction debris such as cardboard, concrete, metal, plastic and wood, which are sorted on site in an assembly-line..
The Harrisburg site is the only facility in the state that recycles gypsum board, also called wallboard or Sheetrock. Some larger paper chunks are used as bedding for chicken farms while smaller particulates are used to make fertilizer. The landfill also makes consumer-grade compost from yard waste received from the city of Concord and the town of Harrisburg.
There are only two other similar facilities in the state - in Greensboro and Raleigh - that offer single-stream recycling.
"We're probably by far the most-advance single-stream recycler of construction in the market," said Mike Griffin. "We're the only one that has a 'picker-line' that can take such high volume. Some people get a container and pick through it by hand, but we're the only ones that have this type of pick-line and screener."
Seven workers separate larger debris by hand as it rides a conveyor belt. Demolition makes up only a small percentage of the waste received, and it's not conducive to recycling, said Mike Griffin.
As the concept catches on, the prices of the recycled and reprocessed commodities also are expected to grow.
"We think in the near future, the state's going to require what we're doing," said Larry Griffin. "We're the only ones doing it now. There are a couple in Charlotte that are dumping it on the ground and going through it, but this is totally different. It's going to be a big thing."
Being the first single-stream recycler in the area also might help the recycling effort spread locally and regionally, making it mandatory to recycle construction waste.
"The intention is to make this happen through the whole Carolinas," said Mike Griffin. "The more that this happens, the more people create the demand and the more likely it will be a standard deal where you will have to get a recycling permit to build something."
The work the company spearheads now also serves as research and development for future, possibly more advanced recycling efforts. With more than 20 years of experience in the construction and demolition industry, the Griffins are local leaders in recycling, reprocessing and land filling, and are transforming the industry through innovative reclamation practices.
"I think the better we get at this, the longer the life of the landfill will be, and as we hope (our commodities) get more valuable, that will motivate us more to take every ounce to get recycled, which also will extend the life of the landfill," said Mike Griffin. "When you get down to it, the cost of disposing something is pretty small; it's not going to make a major dent in your building and development plans. Fifty years from now, if there are three less landfills open, that's a good thing."