vchalup | Adobe Stock

A-1 Sandrock in Greensboro, North Carolina, is no stranger to processing high volumes of construction and demolition debris. The company, which employs 35 individuals throughout six divisions—including crushing, grinding, hauling and landfilling segments—has handled the recycling needs of area contractors for more than 25 years. So when the region was hit with a tornado in early May 2017, it was no surprise that the construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycler was tabbed to help with the cleanup.

The tornado, which struck a 16-mile stretch in Guilford County, left roughly 1,000 businesses and homes damaged and a number of fallen trees in its wake. After surveying the damage, the city of Greensboro knew it needed help to get the community back up and running quickly.

Because the storm debris was too much for the city to process itself on top of its normal wood intake, it commissioned A-1 Sandrock to help grind the wood that had accumulated on city streets into mulch and topsoil and transport other waste to landfill.

“Several divisions were involved in the cleanup,” Jimmy Petty, general manager of mobile operations at A-1 Sandrock, says. “Our hauling and landfill divisions partnered with local companies to transport and dispose of C&D and wood waste. Specifically, we assisted the city of Greensboro in grinding their storm and brush debris.”

Petty says A-1 Sandrock was well equipped to jump in and handle the storm debris.

“Our normal operations consist of three mobile crews,” Petty says. “Each crew is equipped with all ancillary equipment for wood or shingle recycling, including an excavator, loader, trommel and grinder. In addition, we keep a backup grinder at our yard in Greensboro. This allows us to be prepared for unexpected breakdowns and also gives us the ability to mobilize quickly to a storm disaster, such as in this case.”

Managing the cleanup

A-1 Sandrock had to quickly have its equipment shipped to the sites of the cleanup locations. According to Petty, they mobilized a 5800 horizontal grinder from Continental Biomass Industries (CBI), Newton, New Hampshire, for its wood grinding operations, a 330 excavator from Caterpillar, Peoria, Illinois, to assist in loading the wood grinder, and dump trucks and road tractors from Mack, Greensboro, North Carolina, for wood and waste transport.

Because the CBI 5800 horizontal grinder was coming from a shingle grinding job, the team had to do some conversions to ensure the equipment was ready for the job at hand.

“Most of our mobilization is in house,” Petty says. “Our hauling division has several tractors to make our moves as efficient as possible. Once the machines arrived, we had to change our screens, bits and computer settings to help maximize our production.

Powerscreen Mid-Atlantic out of Kernersville, North Carolina, is our CBI dealer. They have been great to work with on any challenges, including with this project, that we’ve had to overcome.”

All wood debris that A-1 Sandrock processed was recycled to mulch and screened for topsoil. However, because of the potential for contamination because of the diverse nature of the material involved in storm cleanup, the company had to take extra precautions.

“We utilized our CBI 5800 grinder for these specific grinding jobs,” Petty says. “This unit is equipped with a metal detection system (MDS). This is very helpful when processing material that may be contaminated.

“Storm cleanup calls for all working parts to operate at a quick pace to get the streets cleared up. The crews working directly on the streets may unintentionally contaminate the wood pile with metal. However, CBI equips their horizontal grinders with metal detection systems. If a piece of metal hits the mill of the machine, the bearings pick up on the vibrations then shut the machine off so it can be opened to have the mill inspected for damage. This minimizes damage to the mill, which results in greater run time.”

After the material was processed, A-1 Sandrock’s hauling division hauled wood and C&D debris in walking floor trailers and dump trucks to be recycled and landfilled.

In all, the company processed several thousand yards of wood debris during the two-week project. After the material was hauled to its landfill, the company worked for an additional week to grind the remaining material.

After the storm

Although A-1 Sandrock takes pride in its ability to handle a multitude of recycling jobs, being able to help assist the community in its time of need was the true highlight of the project, according to Petty.

“We have been a family-owned and -operated business in Guilford County since the late 1980s,” he says. “Greensboro has been our home since the beginning. So, it was an honor to assist and help with so many great companies in these projects.”

To handle future projects of similar scope, Petty says the company is contemplating reinvesting in its equipment to make processing debris that much easier.

“When purchasing equipment for our grinding division, we focus our needs toward shingle recycling because that’s the bulk of our work. However, shingle recycling doesn’t call for the largest grinders available,” Petty says. “As more of our workload shifts toward storm cleanup and mobile wood grinding, I see us potentially updating equipment to the next size up to maximize production and enhance our ability to handle larger material.”

The author is the editor for Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at