Expansion Opportunities with Colored Mulch

by Diana Barnum, Correspondent

(left to right) Randy Tigar, Vice President and Co-owner, holding a box of raw material, Gary Diaaz also Co-owner and President of American Soil and Mulch, holding a box of finished product.
Photo provided by T.H. Glennon

Marketing specialty, or niche, products might appear on the surface to be selling to a smaller target market, limiting income possibilities. On the contrary, it can open up some pretty hefty expansion opportunities as two wood recycling facilities discovered; American Soil & Mulch, Inc. and Sunshine Mulch, Inc.
American Soil & Mulch, Inc.
Established only three years ago, American Soil & Mulch, Inc., a wholesale company dealing in bulk quantities of organic mulches, playground surfaces and blended dirts, started out with only one screen, one grinder and a couple of loaders and produced roughly 40,000-cubic yards of total product.
“We were not looking to be the biggest, but to have a top quality product,” said Gary Diaz, president and co-owner of American Soil & Mulch, Inc. “We invested in a lot of equipment.”
Now, three years later, his company has grown to 20 employees and a huge assortment of equipment including large rubber-tire loaders with 5- to 9-yard buckets.
Gary’s Current Equipment Includes:
WA-500 Komatsu loaders Kawasaki Z95 loader FR 35 and FR 100 Fiat loader Kobelco LK 900 loader Case W 36 The company also has a Cat 977 track loader, Peterbilt and MAC tractors, Dorsey and Fabrex walking-floor tractor trailers, a Wildcat Windrow turner, three tub grinders, all on wheels; a Toro 5000, a Jones Giant and a Haybuster HD-12, two Mulch Color Jets, a Morbark 3000-P colorizer, and two portable screens on wheels; a 830 trommel from Powerscreen and a double-deck CEC 616.
Total output today:
60,000-cubic yards colorized mulch 60,000-cubic yards regular mulch 30,000-cubic yards soil 10,000-cubic yards playground material “We colorize using the Mulch Color Jet attached to the Toro,” explained Diaz. “The Toro is the largest grinder on site and puts out about 60% more volume than the next largest grinder, the HD-12.” The Mulch Color Jet, manufactured by T.H. Glennon Co., Inc., (see below), accurately meters, calibrates and monitors liquid colorant to grinding equipment during the grinding process. The company’s colored mulch product line currently consists of black, dark brown and gold.
American Soil & Mulch, Inc. was originally established about 15 years ago in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as a satellite site of a company called Advanced Recycling, with headquarters in New Jersey. Around 6 years ago, Casella Waste Systems (CWS) took over all of Advanced Recycling’s operations, including this site, then named American Supply, focusing on wood waste and a little yard waste handling. But financial problems, coupled with an overextension into non-core businesses not tied into their land operations, caused CWS to sell off many of its non-core businesses..
Their site manager, with 14-years on the job, was Diaz, who saw things a little differently when he helped clean up the site to resell.
“I saw an opportunity to get the site developed to the point where it could be a real force in the marketplace and an asset to the community,” said Diaz. “The site had been allowed to decay and was not being managed properly.”
Diaz had owned a small wood recycling business before working for CSW that was purchased by Advanced Recycling. With a goal of slow growth and the possibility that he might hook up with a larger player, Diaz purchased American Supply in 2001, changed the name to American Soil & Mulch, Inc., and ran operations solo, as president.
Six months later his partner came onboard, long-time friend and main source of wood for colorized materials, Randy Tigar, who also owns a pallet business with his brother; T&M Pallet. Tigar became VP and co-owner of American Soil & Mulch, Inc., a fully permitted PADEP 50-acre facility.
Products and services include soils, mulch (including colorized and natural), clean soil disposal, composting, wood and vegetative recycling, playground materials, (Playmat), and firewood. End users are most often nurseries, garden centers and landscaping contractors, “If you’re setup properly, there’s nothing more efficient than a Mulch Color Jet,” said Diaz. Using the Mulch Color Jet during the wood grind, “We can put out as much as 200-cubic yards per hour with the Toro. Realistically, with a 7-hour day, we average around 1,400-cubic yards a day. We re-grind and colorize right in the Toro tub grinder.”
The future of American Soil & Mulch, Inc. is focused on cash flow and sustained growth. Within two years, its owners plan to reach an annual production rate of two hundred thousand cubic yards. In the near term, the company plans to set up its own mulch bagging operation.
Colorizing rubber tire chips for playground surface may be a future addition to the product/ service line, but is reported to be somewhat expensive at this point in time.
For more information, contact American Soil & Mulch, Inc. at 1600 Freemansburg Road Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18020. Call: 610-882-1555 (ph); or 610-882-1557 (fax). Visit them online at: americanmulch.com or email them at: CustomerSupport@AmericanMulch.com
Sunshine Mulch, Inc.
Another opportunity for expansion was with Sunshine Mulch, Inc. In 1987, when owner Mike Hickey first started his land clearing operations, he hadn’t heard of colored mulch. But after he learned about it from a friend in 1996 and added it to his operations on 5 acres in Cocoa, Florida, his company grew to 25 acres in just a few years.
“We use a Mulch Color Jet attached to one of two 1300 Mobark tub grinders,” said Mike Hickey, owner of both Sunshine Mulch, Inc., and P&M Custom Grinding and Land Clearing. “Our 25-acre landfill takes in nothing but wood waste in Rockledge,(Florida).”
With about a half dozen employees, Hickey’s workers mainly clear highways and subdivisions. They clear the land and recycle debris into colored mulch by mixing in colorants from T.H. Glennon Co., Inc. during the wood waste grinding process.
“We use 4,000-lb. net totes of T.H. Glennon colorants; red and gold are the most popular,” said Hickey. “We have been coloring with the Mulch Color Jet for four and a half years and it has proven to be very effective”.
Generally, Hickey’s crew loads the following equipment, along with one or both tub grinders, onto Kenworth and Mac trucks to haul to job sites: two trackhoes; a Komatsu PC 150 and a Daewoo 220LC; and three rubber tire wheel loaders; a Komatsu WA250, a Volvo L9OC, and a Dresser 520. Once onsite, the steps in their operations are:
Clear the land with wheel loaders and trackhoes Pile up debris Send logs and stumps back to the yard for grinding and turning into colored mulch Plow palmettos Chop up and grind debris onsite Return to their yard to grind large stumps - usually weekly or every few days Remove dirt with 727 Morbark screen Grind second time while adding colorant with the Mulch Color Jet To stay competitive, Hickey is taking a look at coloring sand and crushed concrete / gravel products for landscaping home and business environments. His contacts tell him this is already ongoing in California.
T.H. Glennon Co., Inc.
The Mulch Color Jet, manufactured by T. H. Glennon Co., Inc. of Salisbury, MA, is designed to attach to tub grinders so that the coloring and regrinding of the wood mulch occur simultaneously. While this approach is the most efficient use of the equipment, the Mulch Color Jet may also be attached to screw augers, compost mixers, trommel screens and other mixing equipment to easily color mulch . Different Mulch Color Jet models are offered, based upon the size/output of the auger, grinder or other equipment to which the unit is attached. The Mulch Color Jet models are rated to color from a low of 25 to a high of 450 cubic yards of product per hour. T. H. Glennon Co., Inc. manufactures four different types of colorant for the recycling industry:
Wood mulch or chips Rubber surfacing (popular on playgrounds) Crushed concrete rock / gravel Sand (popular in children’s sandboxes) T. H. Glennon Co., Inc. was established 40 years ago. It was purchased by Brian Shea, a chemist who bought the company from his dad, Richard Shea, now a Board member. Lab and production facilities, staffed with 16 employees, are located in a 15,000-square foot building in Salisbury.
“We help people get profitable faster than anyone else in the business,” said Brian Shea. “With the Mulch Color Jet, it takes me less than one hour to set up a tub grinder to produce saleable, colored mulch. Wood recyclers can be in the colored mulch business for less than $10,000. Other mulch coloring equipment can cost from $65,000 to $100,000, or more to produce the same quantity and quality of finished product”.
T. H Glennon Co., Inc. sells worldwide with a focus on U.S., Caribbean, and West European destinations. The company’s focus is on increasing the profitability of its customers by helping them make the most out of their grinding equipment.
Future of Mulch Coloring
As Shea sees more and more low-cost high-production equipment sold every year, he made some prediction about the industry:
“Mulch coloring is going to go to appliances / attachments, instead of full-size pieces of equipment,” explained Shea. “For example, the Mulch Color Jet’s dry-feed and liquid coloring systems cost less to install and less to run on a daily basis than the stand-alone coloring machines.”
“For people who want to size with trommel screens instead of grinders, used stand-alone coloring equipment is available.”
“For those generating chip,(tree work), for example, grinding and coloring can be done for less money than by using only a coloring machine. A small tub grinder of roughly 40-60 yds. capacity with a Mulch Color Jet is cheaper than a full-sized coloring machine.”
“Quality of mulch improves with more, and smaller, grinding,” said Shea. “Smaller mulch keeps water in, turns to soil quicker and looks better.”
Popular colorants at T.H Glennon Co., Inc. are:
#1 – Red (several shades)
#2 – Brown (dark, light, cocoa)
#3 – Black
#4 – Gold blends
#5 – Blue and green shades (tie)
For more information, contact Sunshine Mulch, Inc., 635 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, FL 32922. Call: (321) 288-2200; or fax inquiries to: (321) 638-2449. Or contact T. H. Glennon Co., Inc., 26 Fanaras Drive, P.O. Box 5311, Salisbury, MA 01952. Call: 978-465-7222 (ph); or 978-465-3228 (fax). Visit them online at: www.mulchcolorjet.com ; or email: info@mulchcolorjet.com