Converting Waste Into Mulch

By Greg Ehm | September 28, 2010

Edited by Hol Wagner

Telluride is a mountain community with a long and storied history. During the late 1800s, this mining town tucked in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado attracted people from all over the country looking for the gold, silver, iron, lead, and copper ores that were found in this area. Once the mining industry left, Telluride became a ghost town. In 1970, Telluride discovered another type of gold: snow, and it has made the small community into a world-renowned resort area.

Telluride is known for its skiing, breathtaking scenery and high-end homes. But it's also becoming known for its efforts to protect and preserve the environment. Finbro Construction understands this well.

Finbro was established in 2006 by Werner Catsman and Steve Finger based on their belief that they could create a new kind of construction company — one that maintains a high degree of accountability to all stakeholders and delivers what it sets out to perform.

The company is currently managing the construction of a condominium project that will include 30 to 40 units. The condos range in size from 3,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet and will sell for an average price of $4 million each. The vast majority will serve as secondary homes for the owners.

"What sets our company apart from others is accountability," says Werner Catsman, president of Finbro. "We hold ourselves accountable to the customer, their budget and the environment."

This environmental consciousness is what led the company to explore ways to reduce the wood waste being sent off the job site.

"We were filling four to six 22-cubic-yard dumpsters every month with construction waste," says Catsman. "One of our superintendents began exploring ways to reduce the amount of construction waste sent off-site and discovered the Vermeer HG200 horizontal grinder."

The HG200 is a compact, horizontal grinder that turns wood chips, organic construction debris and green waste into a range of usable end products that include ground cover, landscape mulch, animal bedding, and compost. The unit features a hammermill drum and replaceable screens that create a uniform end product.

According to Catsman, they use the unit to process scrap lumber. So far it has reduced construction waste haul-off by 75 percent. Now the company only fills one to two dumpsters per month and has reduced its monthly dumpster expense from $3,500 to $1,500 per month.

The HG200 produces more than a cost savings to Finbro; it also produces a valuable by-product — landscape mulch.

Scrap lumber is processed and stockpiled on the ground for use as landscape mulch once the construction process is complete. Construction waste not suitable to become landscape mulch is processed and placed into a dumpster.

"The HG200 processes the organic construction waste with ease," says Catsman. "We especially like the side-discharge conveyor. It allows us to create windrows of mulch, or we can pull the unit up to a dumpster, process material, and the conveyor loads it into the dumpster." Another feature Catsman likes is the magnet in the conveyer that pulls small metal fasteners out of the processed mulch.

Finbro also uses the HG200 to process green waste on new construction sites. From time to time the company will clear trees for a new development. These trees usually have higher sap content, making the resulting mulch ideal for dust control. The HG200 processes the trees, then the crew spreads the mulch on the ground. This helps reduce dust on the job site and also provides a pleasant pine scent.

The HG200 has helped this fledging company reduce costs in an industry with tight margins, while also staying true to its philosophy of accountability.

"We have a responsibility to the customer's budget and the environment," says Catsman. "And the HG200 is helping us to stay accountable."

Author Information
Greg Ehm is a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.