Maximize Profit on Each Ton of Wood Available

November 11, 2012

Landscape mulch is getting to be a more sophisticated and complex subject every year. Twenty years ago mulch was simply bark from trees. It was what customers got when they asked for mulch. It was cheap and plentiful, like the diesel fuel used to haul it. Then, in 1990 in Cleveland, AmeriMulch invented the idea of colored mulch. That changed everything.

Now you could grind different types of wood and make lovely red, brown, gold, and black ground covers, demand grew rapidly. The supply of cheap feed stock was quickly heading toward exhaustion. Because of the excellent price and growing demand mulch started to move over greater distances. Rumors of train loads from Canada and barge loads from Louisiana were often true. Truck loads by the thousands fanned out over great distances each April to stock retail yards and convenience stores.

In the first decade of the 21st Century, things changed again. 9/11, the war in Iraq, the rise of China and India and suddenly wood waste is no longer worthless wood waste; it is valuable biomass fuel. With oil at $100 a barrel wood fiber is worth serious money. A cellulosic ethanol plant can make 115 gallons of 110 octane ethanol out of one ton of wood. 30 megawatt biomass burning plants that consume 300,000 tons of wood each are popping up all over the United States (US). Huge new wood pellet plants and briquetting plants are running 24/7 to feed a ravenous demand in the US and Europe for less expensive and carbon neutral fuel.

Rotochopper recently compared colored mulch made in two different processes from pallet wood. One sample was made with an 800 HP horizontal grinder that ground the wood through a 3″ screen, conveyed it directly into a trommel screen where color was applied and then dumped directly into a second 800 HP grinder with a 1.25″ screen. The result was mulch that was as much as 60% 1/4″ minus “fines”. This mulch needed a huge amount of colorant to look good and weighed almost 500 lbs per yard. In other words a ton of wood produced four yards of mulch and had to be saturated with water and colorant to make a good product.

Next we took the same wood and ran it through a 4″ screen in 475 HP Rotochopper MC266. Then we re-ran that wood through a 1.25″ screen in the same machine while applying water and color in the grinding chamber. The result was a beautiful uniform product with rich color, small particle size, fines of less than 15%, and a weight of only 320 lbs per yard. That means six yards to the ton …………50% more saleable mulch from the same ton of wood! Less colorant, less wood, less water, less diesel fuel and more yards of mulch. Magic? No, there are very good reasons for this result! It has to do with several patented features of the Rotochopper that explain why it’s the premier mulch machine market. One is the high speed down-cut rotor that causes wood to escape the grinding chamber much more quickly than up-cut machines. Wood is in and out of a Rotochopper fast. Next, injecting color and water directly into the grinding chamber is critically important. 475 HP puts the colorants into the wood evenly and instantly. Finally, baffled screens in the grinding chamber are the ultimate technology for proper sizing and have a lot to do with the “Perfect In One Pass” tagline given to Rotochoppers by customers.

With wood supplies dwindling, fuel costs rising and customers demanding an ever higher quality product, be sure to take a detailed look at all aspects of your mulch manufacturing process; limit the miles the wood has to move and take a closer look at your processing equipment. For additional information on Rotochopper equipment, please contact Monte Hight at 320-548-3586.

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