KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Missouri Organic Recycling has enjoyed steady growth since the Anderson family acquired it more than 30 years ago. Its product lines include mulch, compost, and soil mixtures. As it has grown, so has its number of HogZilla grinders for converting wood material into mulch.
Missouri Organic Recycling is operated by two brothers, Jason and Kevin Anderson. Jason, 43, is vice president of operations while Kevin, 47, is vice president of sales. “We make a really good team,” said Jason.
Their father, Dave, 72, who acquired the business, holds the title of president although he began transitioning into retirement a few years ago and now has a lesser role. “He keeps us in line,” said Jason.
Their mother, Jeannie, did the company’s bookkeeping for years but now, like Dave, has been transitioning out of day-to-day duties. Jason’s partner, Jessica Barnett, is taking on those duties.
The business also employs numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, and “high school friends,” said Jason. “It’s a unique situation. We’re family owned and operated. It is family.”
Missouri Organic Recycling currently employs 83 people. The company sold 250,000 cubic yards of mulch in 2020 and 50,000 yards of compost. An additional 25,000 yards of compost went into various soil mixtures and other blended material. The company also recycled and composted 37 million pounds of food waste.
The company operates five locations — four in Missouri, one in Kansas — where homeowners and contractors can unload wood debris and vegetative waste material and also pick up mulch, compost, and soil products. Operations include a large composting yard and a plant where products can be bagged with automated machinery. The main mulching operations are on a 27-acre site about 6 miles southeast of downtown Kansas City.
Dave previously was a self-employed chimney sweep after working as a union printer.
When Missouri banned yard waste material from landfills, some companies began springing up to establish collection yards and recycling operations. That’s how Missouri Organic Recycling got its start, although the original owner had no plan for what to do with the material he began storing on a 5-acre rented site.
Dave bought the company in 1992. He envisioned the business would sell firewood in the cold months of the year, and he would clean those chimneys in the warm months of the year. He concentrated on firewood operations and also began researching what else he could make from wood debris and other brushy, leafy material. He seized on the idea of developing two product lines: mulch and compost.
Dave initially hired contractors to grind material once or twice a year. Jason operated a loader to fill the grinder and began learning about grinders and grinding and screening operations. “We learned a lot over the years but weren’t in the equipment side of things yet,” recalled Jason.
The company’s first big break was a contract to supply mulch to Amoco oil company for a soil reclamation project. The mulch was mixed with microbes and soil contaminated with oil. The microbes consumed the petroleum, making it safe to deposit in a lined landfill. Missouri Organic Recycling supplied 10 loads of double-grind mulch daily for the project.
The Andersons gained valuable experience and expertise in grinding wood material and using various size screens to make specific mulch products.
Dave invested in his first grinder in the late 1990s, a Morbark 1100 tub grinder. “It was the first time we had the capability of making our own product to our own exact specifications,” noted Jason. “We controlled the screen sizes” and other factors. “We could fine-tune our products.”
Another milestone in the company’s development was closing the original location and moving to the current site on 27 acres it purchased in 2012. “That was a pretty big step,” acknowledged Jason. “That gave us plenty of room to grow.” The company’s other four locations are leased properties; each one has a retail store and office. The bagging operations — which use Amadas Industries equipment added in 2018 — are located about one mile from the company’s main facility.
The company’s leading products by volume are soil mixtures and compost. “Compost is our thing,” said Jason. The waste food the company receives — about 300 tons per week — already has been gleaned previously by a food bank to collect food that is edible and can be distributed to the needy. The waste food material is arranged in long windrows, and the food is gradually broken down and digested by microbes. The finished compost holds eight times its weight in water, and the decomposed microbes provide rich nutrients for growing plants.
Mulch is the leading product by revenue. The company’s best-selling mulch is brown colored mulch followed by black, red, and premium natural hardwood mulch.
Bulk sales of products cover the entire spectrum from someone with a 5-gallon bucket to a tractor-trailer load. A large volume of material is sold to other businesses with bagging operations.
About 10 percent of the company’s production currently is sold in bags. “We’re learning a lot about bagging and branding,” said Jason. “We’re looking at large growth in that realm in the next few years.” The company sells bagged mulch retail and wholesale under its own brand and also labeled for other brands.
Missouri Organic Recycling is equipped with four grinders: three CW Mill Equipment Co. HogZilla tub grinders and a Peterson track horizontal grinder. The newest HogZilla grinder is an HTC-1462T tub grinder on tracks. The other HogZilla grinders are trailer-mounted TC Series 1564P models. The grinders are stationed at company sites.
For coloring mulch, the company has a Cheetah coloring system from Nature’s Reflections, which supplies mulch colorants and coloring systems. Colorants are supplied by AgriCoatings.
Each location also is equipped with a John Deere 624 loader and a John Deere 326 skid steer for loading material into a grinder and loading trucks with finished products.
A couple locations also have screening equipment. Missouri Organic Recycling uses screens from Doppstadt and BM&M Screening Solutions.
BM&M Screening Solutions manufactures screening machinery for separating wood chips, bark, sawdust, and other by-products of producing lumber, paper, and other materials for the forest products industry. It has been a leading supplier to the forest products industry of high-efficiency, high-speed screening equipment for more than 50 years. (For more information, visit the website at www.bmandm.com.)
Missouri Organic Recycling bought its first HogZilla grinder in 2000 to replace the Morbark machine. “We pretty much wore it out, but we learned a lot with it,” said Jason, referring to that first Morbark grinder.
The company has continued to add grinders to keep pace with growth, and it has continued to look to CW Mill Equipment. “We keep growing every year,” observed Jason.
“We never got rid of a grinder because it was worn out,” he added. “We keep buying new ones because we have to keep up with the growing volume of business.”
CW Mill Equipment is located in Sabetha, Kansas, only two hours north. “We like the idea of having our support close,” said Jason. “If we need anything, two hours and they’re here. That was real attractive.”
The newest HogZilla, which the company took delivery of in late February, is its first track tub grinder. “I told myself, from now on our grinders will be on tracks,” said Jason. “It just makes moving the equipment around the yard a whole lot easier.” The new machine has been working on a custom grinding job in Topeka, but Jason expected it to be used at Missouri Organic Recycling facilities in the near future.
CW Mill Equipment Co. has been manufacturing top-quality electric and diesel-powered grinders for over 40 years. It continually strives to improve its technology through added efficiency, torque, production, reliability, durability, and value. The company offers over 20 HogZilla grinder models ranging from midsize to massive machines, including self-propelled, track-driven and self-loading units. Tub and horizontal grinders are available in models powered by diesel fuel engines or electricity.
HogZilla HC series tub grinders have top-of-the-line standard features and innovations. They are designed and built to be the most reliable, high-capacity grinder in their class, delivering maximum production. HC series grinders are manufactured with heavy-duty components for large-scale production. HC series models include self-loading and self-propelled track options.
HC series standard equipment includes a hydraulic coupling fluid drive, which eliminates the common repairs required of a dry clutch and also protects the engine from torsional shock. Other standard features include radio remote control, radiator pre-cleaner enclosure, and engine enclosure.
Options include torque converter drive for increased production, radial stacking elevator, mulch coloring system, and various hammers and tips.
The HogZilla HTC-1462T owned by Missouri Organic Recycling comes standard with a Cat 1,050 hp engine; engine options include Detroit and Cummins from 760-1,050 hp. The machine can grind stumps and logs at the rate of 50-110 tons per hour.
(For more information about HogZilla grinders, contact CW Mill Equipment Co. at (800) 743-3491, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.hogzilla.com.)
Since buying the first HogZilla, the Andersons have given little consideration to other manufacturers when it came time to add a grinder, according to Jason. “They build a quality product,” he said. “I know enough about grinders and have seen others and how they’re built. C.W. Mill Equipment builds a grinder to last…The quality, heavy-duty construction is why I’m sold on HogZilla.”
Missouri Organic Recycling collects plenty of wood material at its yards. A lot of it arrives on self-loading grapple trucks from tree service and landscape contractors. “If we can get it in the tub, it will grind eventually,” said Jason. “With the big wood we have, that’s why the tub grinders are very integral to our process. We don’t have to shear the wood or cut it down. We can throw it in and let it grind.” Contractors are asked to buck the material to 10 feet. They pay tipping fees based on the cubic yard.
In recent years the company has begun culling saw logs from its yards and has invested in a portable sawmill to begin producing live-edge slabs and other material.
Each company yard does a first grind of wood material into a coarse mulch. It is loaded into a truck and hauled to the company’s main facility to be processed further. At the main facility, the mulch is reground and screened down to 1-inch or \!-inch. Grass and leafy material are hauled to the compost facility after grinding.
Missouri Organic Recycling also provides on-site grinding services for small cities that operate yards to collect vegetative debris and hauls the material back to its yards.
Most of the company’s markets are within 70 miles, although some products are delivered up to about 150 miles. Missouri Organic Recycling has a fleet of walking floor and end-dump trailers and 26 semi-tractors.
Out of the company’s 80-plus employees, about 35 are family members. “It’s very unique,” said Jason. At a typical Christmas dinner, the Andersons are surrounded by people they work with every day.
“We just intend to keep growing,” said Jason. “We want to be the number one manufacturer for landscape products in our region. And we want to divert as much waste from landfills as possible by composting waste food and vegetative debris. We want to be responsible and produce a quality product from something that otherwise would end up in a landfill. As long as we keep doing that, we’re hoping for steady growth.”