BioCycle September 2004, Vol. 45, No. 9, p. 37
Processing wood and green residuals generates five different colors of mulch, several topsoil grades – recycling more than 4,000 tons each month from land clearing, construction and curbside collection.
WHEN Dave Smith and three co-owners started Florida Recyclers of Brevard, Inc. five years ago, it’s unlikely any of them envisioned the breadth of products they would one day be offering. Nevertheless, today they find themselves grinding massive volumes of wood materials and green residuals, generating no fewer than five different colors of custom mulch, offering several different grades of topsoil, and regularly recycling more than 4,000 tons of C&D debris each month.
Florida Recyclers of Brevard was established in 1998 at its current location, a 40-acre landfill and processing site in Melbourne, on Florida’s east coast. “For the first two years we were in business, while we were getting established, we were still landfilling everything,” Smith says. “However, about three years ago the recycling business took off in earnest. Today more than 75 percent of the material that comes into this site is either quickly turned around or stockpiled while new markets are developed. We really run the gamut of products that come out of here which is better from a business standpoint. However, because every yard of material that is reused is a yard of saved landfill space that’s a huge benefit to us as well.”
Material entering Florida Recyclers is weighed and directed to one of three areas: either land clearing, green waste or C&D. Land clearing material, mostly from area contractors involved in clearing lots for golf courses, homes, etc. is offloaded and sorted. A grab-equipped loader is used to separate out any logs or stumps which are redirected to a Morbark tub grinder for subsequent processing as part of the mulch operation. The balance of the land clearing material – about 11,000 yards a month – is fed into a horizontal grinder equipped with 6 inch by 9 inch grates, downsized and placed into a static pile. Material from that pile is then periodically pulled and screened, with the overs being used as feedstock for mulch production.
Green waste, the result of area curbside collection, is offloaded at another location on-site, then also run through the grinder. “At this point, the ground-up material is essentially placed in loaf-like piles and left to decompose into a topsoil product,” says Smith. “The only additional work done to those piles is to periodically add moisture. For that we have an injection system that is self-timed and adds moisture on a preset basis. Doing so not only aids in the decomposition process, it also reduces the risk of an on-site fire.”
The C&D facet of the operation, collected in rolloffs from new construction projects in Brevard County, takes place at a third location where every load is spotted and sorted to remove all recyclables. Of particular interest are the pallets and other kiln dried wood products which too are an integral part of Florida Recyclers’ “main event” – its mulch production operation.
THE MOVE TO MULCH
Mulch, by virtue of its ability to help soil retain moisture even in high temperatures, has always played an important role in Florida landscaping and agriculture. However, until fairly recently, says Smith, colored mulch never had much of a presence in the Southeast. “I would guess that as recently as three years ago, only 10 percent of all mulch in use here in Florida was of the colored variety; there just wasn’t much of a demand for it. That number is at anywhere from 50 percent to 60 percent and rising steadily.”
“Our line is called Earthtone Specialty Mulches and we offer them in black, brown, gold, red and premium red,” he adds. “The process begins with the material that originated in the landscape area – the material that has been screened as well as the stumps and logs that were initially pulled out of that stream. A predetermined amount of that material along with the kiln dried wood that has been pulled from the C&D area is run through the Morbark tub. Because the kiln dried wood has a tendency to splinter and create ‘spikes’, baffle grates were added to help size the product.” Material exits the tub and is conveyed directly into a triple deck screen which separates it into three distinctly-sized products. “The 3/8 minus we sell to a soil manufacturer who uses 300 yards a month of it as an additive; the 1-inch minus is sent to a coloring unit for the premium mulch; and the overs, which usually only account for 10 percent of the material, are reinjected for another pass.
“We probably do three times as much mulch as we do topsoil each month. But the topsoil side of the business has been picking up steadily and, as we develop new markets, it should continue to grow.” Demands for topsoil can vary greatly. Florida Recyclers has customers who buy from the static pile on-site, add their own additives, rewindrow it themselves and sell the resultant product to area nurseries. “We also have a decent clientele of developers, builders and homeowners for whom we prepare a totally finished product,” explains Smith.
THE VALUE OF C&D
The C&D operation – 3,000 to 4,000 tons a month – provides an excellent feedstock for the mulch. However, because it represents about 40 percent of the overall waste stream coming into the site, C&D also presents the greatest challenges for helping the company reach desired recycling goals.
“Wood makes up about 10 percent to 15 percent of the C&D waste stream,” according to Smith. “The balance is everything from concrete to metal to general site debris. We make a real effort to effectively pull whatever we can from that stream. For example, we stockpile any concrete we get in and then bring a crusher in on a periodic basis to crush it. We sell the aggregate for road base material and use the fines from that process as daily cover at the landfill. Metal is also pulled and sent to an area scrap yard for recycling. However, other debris such as any liquids, caulking tubes, ballast from lighting, and so on, is just not recyclable so it is separated out and sent to the Class 1 landfill.”
TREE SERVICE FIRM BECOMES MULCH SUPPLIER
A VIRGINIA firm called Green Waste Recyclers, LLC in Culpeper started out modestly as a small tree service, added an arbor supply company, then took the next step to recycling green and woody materials. Today the company generates better than 15,000 cubic yards of high-quality mulch per year, marketing within a 75-mile radius. For founders George and Stephanie Partlow, their modest start working out of the back of a car over 20 years ago has seen steady expansion. When an eight-acre piece of land became available, they bought it and began their recycling operation.
With a John Deere loader and excavator, and a Morbark tub grinder, Green Waste Recyclers debuted in 2001. Material at the Culpeper site is collected both from their own projects as well as from other area tree services that benefit from having an alternate source for their disposal needs. “We take in material in just about every form,” says George Partlow. “That includes whole trees, stumps, limbs – occasionally a tree service will even bring in chips from their operations. They know we will find it a home.” That home, as Partlow puts it, is as a high-quality hardwood mulch which is run through the grinder, then reground to create the product most desired by area customers.
“Right now we are selling the product to area households and landscapers,” he says. “While we don’t bag any of the mulch for commercial sale or colorize it, we have looked at both of those options and are considering them. The demand certainly seems to be there, but Stephanie and I are extremely careful about controlling the rate of our growth.”
In addition to processing material at the Culpeper site, Partlow’s crew also takes the Model 1300 out for contract grinding. Doing so has often taxed the recycling operation, prompting an additional purchase.
“This area is just booming in terms of development,” says Partlow. “We can easily be kept busy processing full-time for area developers and land clearing firms. It’s a challenge just to get the unit back into the yard to grind the material for the mulch we need. As a result, we’ve purchased an additional grinder. Once we take delivery on that, we will have one unit out in the field and one dedicated to processing here at the yard.”
September 20, 2004 | General
WOOD RECYCLERS DIVERSIFY MULCH PRODUCTS
BioCycle September 2004, Vol. 45, No. 9, p. 37