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What Do You Get From Demolishing Kansas City's Terminal A? A Lot Of Recycling

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Julie Denesha
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KCUR 89.3
Large excavators lay waste to terminal A at Kansas City International Airport on Wednesday June 26, 2019.

Crews are hard at work at Kansas City International Airport tearing down Terminal A and recycling its components to make way for a new, greener single terminal.

There have been no explosions, no big building collapse — and for good reason, says deputy director Justin Meyer.

“This project is taking place in an active airfield … so explosions and flying concrete and debris isn’t necessarily conducive to airfield operations,” Meyer says.

The nearly 50-year-old building isn’t putting up much of a fight. On the northern side of the terminal, a solitary excavator tears the building down in pieces while a water truck hoses down debris to control the dust.

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Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
To keep down damaging dust during demolition, fire hoses spray water on the former site of Terminal A at Kansas City International Airport.

Meyer says demolition so far has been efficient. Less than a month after starting on the main terminal building, about a third of the horseshoe has been reduced to rubble which is now being sorted to recycle.

Everything — from the rebar to the old jet bridges — will be re-sold or recycled.

“Even the concrete that is coming up we’ll condense into small pieces to use as fill around the airport and the project site in particular,” Meyer says.

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Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
A Delta Airlines plane taxis past piles of sorted steel and aluminum at the former site of Terminal A at Kansas City International Airport. Demolition material is being sorted for recycling.

Across the airfield, huge piles of concrete, scrap metal and rebar are being sorted before being taken to a scrapyard.

Ray Lotten is the terminal lead for PMG, which is representing the city for the duration of the project. He says sorting the materials to recycle is more time consuming than the demolition itself.

“It’s similar to like a Jenga set. Building it up and pushing it over is real quick, but sorting those pieces and putting those pieces in the box takes a little longer and is a little tedious,” Lotten says.  

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Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
Piles of sorted steel and aluminum litter the former site of Terminal A.

Lotten says recycling the materials is important to earn LEED points so that the new terminal can be certified as a green building.

“It creates a better environment plus it also generates dollars for the project instead of throwing it in the trash or the dumpster,” Lotten says.

City officials hope the new terminal can be a global example of sustainability.

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Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
A Southwest Airlines plane takes flight over a pile of sorted steel and aluminum at the former site of Terminal A at Kansas City International Airport on Wednesday June 26, 2019.

Meyer expects Terminal A to be demolished by the end of the summer. 

At the edge of the construction site, a wide white line painted on the ground stretches almost all the way to Terminal B. Cut into the middle of it is the outline of the new terminal. 

That terminal is set to open in 2023. 

Julie Denesha is a freelance photographer and reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter, @juliedenesha.

Lisa Rodriguez covers Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall and is the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.

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