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Kansas City Tree Service Branches Out With Grinder

Tue April 10, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Valerie Van Kooten



Don Marrs, owner of Planet Marrs Recycling in Kansas City, Kan., recently purchased a new Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder. His previous grinder, manufactured by another company, constantly needed new parts, and now the only reminder Marrs has of it is the pile of broken parts in the corner of his shop.

“We’ve got several thousand dollars worth of parts in there,” Marrs said. “It’s one thing to see the number of parts you ordered on a computer screen — it’s something else to see them piled up.”

Planet Marrs Recycling spans 18 acres along Interstate 35 on the western edge of Kansas City and was started three years ago as a side business to Marrs’ other company, Marrs Tree Service, which provides a full line of tree maintenance and employs 12 to 18 people, depending on the season. “We needed a place to go with all of our tree debris, so we started this,” he said. “Now it’s open to the public so that other tree services and landscapers can use it, too.” The site takes in approximately 5,000 cu. yds. (3,822 cu m) of material each year.

Planet Marrs Recycling has more than doubled production each year, Marrs said, and he’s looking at opening a similar site 15 mi. west in Shawnee, Kan.

The “tree recycling” site has two employees and works with a variety of hardwoods, including oak, elm, and maple, along with some Scotch and Austrian pine, which are dying off in the area. After the wood is unloaded — with a tipping fee of $4.65 per yard — Planet Marrs Recycling manager, Steve Erickson, runs the wood through the grinder, using a 4-in. (10 cm) screen on the initial grind. “This produces huge piles of coarse brown mulch, and we let it age for eight to 10 months, with no turning,” Marrs said. “There are leaves in it, too, which darken the mulch. After the mulch has aged, it is re-grounded with a 2-in. (5 cm) screen and sold as a “double grind.”

Planet Marrs’ customers include local homeowners, wholesalers, retailers, landscapers, and nurseries, with the product ultimately ending up in commercial and residential landscaping projects. The company’s 30-yd. truck delivers the mulch, which retails for $22 to $31 per cu. yd.

Erickson said that, currently, the site’s mulch pile is “really big” and runs approximately 100 ft. (30.5 m) wide, 300 ft. (91.4 m) long, and 10 ft (3 m) high. Planet Marrs sells approximately 500 to 600 cu. yds. (382 to 458 cu m) of mulch each month — both wholesale and retail. Spring and summer are its busiest times of the year. The company also has some large wholesale customers who buy several thousand yards per year.

Planet Marrs Recycling can dye the mulch mixture before selling it, which has caused a few problems onsite. “The water supply to the dye machine takes a 1.25-in. to 1.5-inch line,” Marrs said. “Fortunately, we put in that size when we developed the site, but we had to change the faucet sizes to accommodate that. It takes a lot of volume for dye.”

Erickson said he appreciates the ColorMaster Coloring System on the Vermeer machine, which can run approximately 21 gal. (79 L) of colorant per minute. Planet Marrs Recycling’s old machine, he said, couldn’t run nearly that much.

The past couple of years, Planet Marrs Recycling has dealt with a big backlog of wood. “We had a huge stockpile of logs because our previous grinder couldn’t handle the volume,” Marrs said. “It was a huge, huge stack of logs covering several acres.”

Erickson estimates that at least three 30-to 40-cu. yd. (22.9 to 30.5 cu m) loads arrive on site every day from Marrs Tree Service alone. Adding that to the trucks being unloaded by other area landscapers and individuals, Erickson indicated that he needed to do something about the grinder.

New Equipment

Handles Stockpile With Ease

Marrs decided to purchase a new grinder and chose the Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder in June 2005.

“This thing feeds itself,” said Marrs. “Once you put material in the in-feed conveyor, you know it’s going in. I think we’re getting more production on the same amount or less fuel than before.”

Erickson said the company had problems with their previous machine because it produced a product that was too finely ground. “It had too many teeth, and the configuration of hammers wasn’t right,” he said. “The Vermeer HG6000 machine feeds logs better because when it grinds, it produces a coarser ground product.”

Additionally, changing screens was easier for Erickson with the Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder. “You literally push a couple buttons, lift the lid, change the screen with a lift chain, close the lid, and it’s done,” Erickson said, adding that on their previous machine he had to physically get inside the machine, lie down on an out-feed conveyor, and then pass a 300-pound screen over his legs. “The screen construction is so much heavier than what we had on our previous machine, that we can’t believe the workload it can withstand.”

The machine came with the Vermeer SmartGrind. ”We’ve been able to grind so much faster,” he said. “The wipers are also really durable. I like the way the cutters are attached to the Duplex Drum.”

Marrs said he traded two machines in for his Vermeer HG6000.

“The Vermeer HG6000 is way more productive — one machine is all we’re going to need for a while.” He added that the difference in parts costs has been unbelievable. “We’ve put almost 175 hours on the Vermeer machine already, and it still has the original cutters.”

And what about the pile of parts in his shop? “One of these days I’ll just load em up and haul em down to the scrap yard,” Marrs said.