Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hey Grinderguy, how do I make a better Red Mulch?


                This question came from a rather “new in the business” Mulch Operator. The customer had a competitor that was a much larger manufacturer and that had much brighter red mulch. He was unable to compete with his competitor’s red colored mulch, so his sales were suffering as a result.
I asked many questions of who, what, where and why?
·         What feedstock is being used for the Red Mulch?- You can only use good clean wood, logs, pallets, slabs to make the Red or Gold Mulches. You cannot make dark wood light, but you can make light wood dark. Yard Waste, branches and leaves, can be used to make brown or black colored mulch.
·         What is your grind process?- Grind twice, pile the 1st grind and then regrind and color. This is how most producers manage their mulch.
·         How long do you pile the 1st ground or the colored Material?- Too much aging, colored or not, will start the compost process and start darkening material.
·         How much water per yard are you using to color?- Too much water on the colored mulch will darken material faster than just having the 1st ground material piled alone.
·         How do you manage your inventory?- Coloring Brown, Black and all the dark colors ahead of season does not affect the dark colored materials as much. So inventory them ahead of season, then make the lighter colors as needed and keep the piles small.
·         What color Red are you using?- There are many different colors, from Bright Red to Brick Red.
Sometimes, because I have been in the business so long, I overlook the obvious. I neglected to follow up on the mulch grinding process. This customer used 1 ½” screens for regrinding to size, but he also used that same size screen for the 1st grind. What did this do and how do we fix it?
1.       First, mulch ground that fine then piled will start heating up and start the compost process quickly, turning your light wood materials dark. Thus giving you a Brick Red, rather than a Bright Red.
2.       Grind as large as possible on the 1st pass which will keep a lot of the wood still light, create more airflow through the pile and reduce the heat
3.       This will reduce the amount of fines created on the 2nd pass which will allow for less color and water usage when coloring and limit the compost process from starting in the colored mulch piles.
4.       This will also increase production on the 1st pass, reducing costs and will reduce wear in the grinder which will further reduce costs.

Questions?         Dave Whitelaw Grinderguy@askthegrinderguy.com