Growing Missouri Compost Business Has Expanded Footprint and Markets

St. Louis Composting Turns to CW Mill Equipment Co. for HogZilla Tub Grinder

St. Louis Composting is no stranger to grinding wood and the mulch business. Now the latest addition to its fleet of grinders is a CW Mill Equipment Co. HogZilla tub grinder.
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LOUIS, Missouri – St. Louis Composting is no stranger to grinding wood and the mulch business. Now the latest addition to its fleet of grinders is a CW Mill Equipment Co. HogZilla tub grinder.

St. Louis Composting is based in and has 10 locations in the greater St. Louis region as well as two in southeast Kansas City, also located in Missouri. All locations – with one exception – double as sites to produce mulch and compost as well as offering retail sales. The Kansas City sites operate under a separate, affiliated business entity, Kansas City Composting, with its own website.

The operations of the business currently employ 140 people. They annually process between 1-1.2 million cubic yards of raw material – in the form of yard waste, tree service debris, discarded food, and other organic material that is recycled. Mulch is the company’s leading seller as well as a ‘Black Gold’ compost product.

The HogZilla TC series tub grinders are the premium machines manufactured by CW Mill Equipment. They are offered in four models, including the largest and most popular, the TCII-1564P.

The business was launched by Patrick Geraty and his wife, Rebecca, in 1992. Patrick was a landscaping contractor. At the time, contractors were still allowed to take yard waste and wood debris to landfills. However, state legislation put a halt to the practice, which gave Patrick the impetus to begin collecting the material, recycling it, and processing it into compost and mulch.

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Patrick began making mulch and compost his first year in business. As a landscaping contractor, he knew others in the business who needed mulch as they installed shrubbery beds or trees or replenished the beds with fresh mulch in the fall or spring, and he supplied them.

Patrick continues to work every day, often arriving around 6-6:30 a.m. Although he is often at the company headquarters in Valley Park, just southwest of St. Louis, he frequently travels to company locations.

The company operates recycling yards at its locations where homeowners, tree service businesses, and other contractors can unload yard waste, tree removal wood, wood chips, and so on. In addition to being a source of raw material for mulch, the company earns revenues in the form of tipping fees.

Depending on the finished mulch product, wood material may be processed by grinding as many as two or three times. Generally, a first grind produces material 7-9 inches long. A smaller screen is used on a second grind to produce wood fiber that is about 2 inches long. Some mulches are produced by a triple-grind process. The various size screens also help eliminate plastic and other debris.

The company typically uses front-end loaders at its locations to feed material into its grinders as well as handling, moving, and mixing grindings and mulch. It also has additional trommel screen equipment at some sites.

St. Louis Composting normally keeps its new HogZilla TC-1564P trailer-mounted tub grinder stationed at the company’s recycling yard in Arnold, Missouri.

Although St. Louis Composting has been equipped with a variety of wood grinders over the years, it recently invested in a HogZilla grinder from CW Mill Equipment Co. The company purchased a used HogZilla track-mounted machine model HTC-1464T last year. However, after a few months the company switched gears, selling the machine and investing in a new HogZilla TC-1564P trailer-mounted tub grinder that was delivered in January of this year. The machine normally is stationed at the company’s location in Arnold, Missouri, although occasionally it is transported to another location for grinding work. St. Louis Composting has a grinder at nearly every location to produce mulch on-site.

The HogZilla TC series tub grinders are the premium machines manufactured by CW Mill Equipment. They are offered in four models, including the largest and most popular, the TCII-1564P.

The heart of a HogZilla TC series grinder is the torque converter drive, which always allows the engine to perform at peak efficiency with multiplied torque. TC series engines operate near governed speed throughout the work cycle regardless of the load requirements. Torque converters allow the engine to avoid lugging and needless racing while protecting the engine from shock and loads from torsion. The strength and reliability of industrial torque converters was proven in the rock crushing industry, and CW Mill pioneered and perfected their use in tub grinders. Another benefit of a torque converter is that it drives the hammermill without the use of a jackshaft or belts. CW Mill Equipment warranties its torque converters for 5 years or 6,000 hours.

The TCII series grinder has a hammer mill assembly that can be changed to a variety of different swing diameters in the field. This enables easy customization of the machine to match specific grinding needs for maximum efficiency and productivity.

TC series grinders have the biggest possible radiator pre-cleaner to help eliminate the most dirt and contaminants. The engine intake air is ducted from ahead of the radiator inside the pre-cleaner to capture the cleanest, coolest air available. The engine exhaust assembly features a special cover to keep chips out of the engine enclosure and material away from exhaust heat. Other guarding helps protect the machine from material build-up and damage.

(For more information about CW Mill Equipment and HogZilla grinders, visit www.hogzilla.com.)

“The HogZilla grinder came highly recommended, and our experiences with their team built our trust in both the product and the company,” said Patrick.

Patrick considered various manufacturers before deciding to invest in a HogZilla grinder, according to Sarah Hagan, marketing manager for St. Louis Composting. “He ultimately made that decision after looking at what was on the market,” she said. HogZilla machines were competitively priced, and he also spoke with many long-term customers of CW Mill Equipment.

“He felt like it was a company and a product he could trust,” added Sarah. In addition, the fact that CW Mill Equipment is based relatively close – in Kansas – was considered a plus in the buying decision.

St. Louis Composting makes about a dozen varieties of mulch, including a natural mulch that is aged for a period of time. Cedar wood material is segregated to be used in a cedar mulch.

The company produces three types of colored mulch: red, black, and dark brown, which is the most popular. Colored mulch is produced at two locations. One site is equipped with a Colorbiotics Sahara mulch coloring system, and the other with a Doppstadt drum line trommel system. Colored mulch is produced with Colorbiotics colorant products.

Wood grindings also are used as an ingredient for some compost and soil additive products. A mix that is used for garden beds, for example, uses some pine bark fines, and a garden mix uses some aged mulch. Grinders also process yard waste for a compost ingredient. When compost is finished it goes through a screener.

The heart of a HogZilla TC series grinder is the torque converter drive, which always allows the engine to perform at peak efficiency with multiplied torque. TC series engines operate near governed speed throughout the work cycle regardless of the load requirements.

St. Louis Composting bags some of its products at two locations for retail sale. The products are bagged in ‘Super Sacks’ and contain 1-2 cubic yards of material.

Most mulch products are sold in bulk form. Some customers – homeowners, landscape contractors, and others – will drive to a retail location with a pickup truck and-or trailer to be loaded. St. Louis Composting also provides delivery service to most zip codes in the region using different size dump trucks. The company also sells wholesale a small quantity of specialty products that are custom prepared and blended for certain customer accounts, such as botanical gardens.

Patrick created an affiliated business in 1994, AgriCycle, Inc. It is equipped with a fleet of grinders and other equipment to perform land clearing, storm clean-up, utility and roadway clearing, yard waste processing, and vegetation management work. The business unit has worked on some of the largest commercial and residential developments in the Midwest and also has provided services for numerous tornado, flood, and hurricane clean-up efforts across the country. Depending on the location of the job and the nature of the contract, wood grindings from AgriCycle operations can be hauled to St. Louis Composting or its Kansas City affiliate.

St. Louis Composting expanded to Kansas City – four hours west – in 2012. Two years later Patrick created another affiliated business, Total Organics Recycling, to collect waste food material and recycle it through the compost production operations. Total Organics Recycling collects and recycles over 200 tons of organic waste each week from schools, restaurants, and other businesses and organizations. The company provides consulting services to train those partners on what material is compostable and how to segregate and collect it.

“There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into it,” said Sarah regarding the company’s growth.

The company is very active in the United States Composting Council. It is also active in the U.S. Green Building Council and a number of regional and state associations related to recycling and the landscape and nursery industry.

The company faces challenges, but the biggest among them is labor – skilled equipment operators and truck drivers. “There’s definitely a shortage of people who have skills and experience,” said Sarah.

“We’re always trying to be on the precipice of innovation in the industry,” said Sarah. “That’s really important to the company.”