Tree Service Expands Mulch And Compost Markets

What started as a way to recycle its own tree trimmings and chunk wood has grown into a landscape products company selling natural and colored mulches and compost.

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle November 2013, Vol. 54, No. 11, p. 30

Mike Kachur, owner of Kachur Tree Service in Niles, Michigan, understands the value of organics. He started his tree trimming and land clearing company in the early 1990s.”We were generating a lot of tree waste and it seemed like a good idea to recycle it,” notes Kachur. “We started out with a used tub grinder that we purchased for $20,000, and then gradually upgraded our processing equipment over the years.”

Niles is in the southwestern corner of Michigan, close to the Indiana border near South Bend. “We are located in what is called the ‘Michiana’ region, and service clients within a 50-mile radius of our site,” says Kachur. “One of our biggest customers for our mulch products is a landscaping center in South Bend.”

Kachur’s approach to mulch production is to haul back chipped wood from tree trimmings and land clearing jobs, and then allow the chips to sit for six months to a year to decay. After that point, the chips are processed again to produce the particle size and consistency desired for the company’s mulch and compost products. “After our original tub grinder, we purchased several horizontal grinders equipped with hammermills,” explains Kachur. “We then tried out a Bandit Beast unit equipped with carbide teeth and found that worked best for the product we wanted. We run it through the 1-inch diamond screen on the grinder. It takes a little more fuel to run it through the smaller screen, but we find people like a smaller product and we have more quality control.”

The Bandit Beast 2680 grinder has a 35-inch opening, which works well with wood chunks (right). To make its final mulch products, aged wood chips are run through a 1-inch diamond screen on the grinder.

The Bandit Beast 2680 grinder has a 35-inch opening, which works well with wood chunks (right). To make its final mulch products, aged wood chips are run through a 1-inch diamond screen on the grinder.

Kachur Tree Service purchased the Beast 2680 horizontal grinder with a 540 horsepower (hp) Tier 4 CAT engine and a 35-inch opening. “It’s a little slower than the horizontal grinder we replaced that had a 700 hp engine, but fuel wise, it is much more efficient,” he adds. “In general, we like to use a horizontal grinder because we take it to land clearing sites and are not limited by the length of the trees.”

The company has perfected a method for grinding large size wood chunks, which are a “big deal” to tree companies. The machine has a 35-inch opening in height, but 40-inch opening horizontally. “Basically, we take out a portion of the side, then back up the chunk, turn it and feed it back in,” Kachur continues. “We do that three to four times until it is whittled down enough to run through.”

Kachur Tree Service has a drop-off area for other tree services and landscapers in the area to use at no charge.  There are separate piles for the various materials coming in.

Kachur Tree Service has a drop-off area for other tree services and landscapers in the area to use at no charge. There are separate piles for the various materials coming in.

Drop Off Lot

Once the mulch side of the business started growing, Kachur realized they would need more material to meet demand. He opened a drop-off area on his 5-acre site for other tree services and landscapers in the area to use. There is no charge to drop off wood chunks, brush and chips as long as the loads are clean. The site is not gated (although there are security cameras) so companies doing jobs late in the day can still make runs to unload as needed. “We have separate piles for the various types of material coming in, e.g., one for wood chunks, another for hardwood, another for just pine wood and one for wood chips,” Kachur explains. “With the hardwood, we use a 4- to 5-inch screen and then let it age. Keeping the pine wood separate is important as that is ideal for making mulch colors like red, cherry brown and black.”

The company uses a Morbark 3000 colorizer, which produces about 60 cubic yards/hour. The unit is not sold any longer, but it has met Kachur Tree Service’s production needs. “We sell wholesale to a lot of retail centers,” he says. “We have a walking floor trailer as well as a 25 cubic yard dump truck to deliver our products.”

A Morbark colorizer has a throughput of about 60 cubic yards/hour. Mulch colors include red, cherry brown and black.

A Morbark colorizer has a
throughput of about 60 cubic yards/hour. Mulch colors include red, cherry brown and black.

Kachur Tree Service also does some composting. It receives leaves from area landscapers that are put in a pile. After a year, the leaf mulch is ground and then composts for another year, at which point the material is screened through a Screen Machine Might 2 trommel. The company also makes a topsoil product from its stump grindings. “There is a lot of dirt in those wood shavings,” adds Kachur. “We will windrow that material and then screen it after a period of time. We got into making topsoil because we have landscapers coming here to buy mulch, and then they would go elsewhere for topsoil. We wanted to be able to service all of their needs. Overall, I estimate we sell about 20,000 cubic yards/year of our various products.”

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