Project Profile: Recycled Woodwaste Helps Erosion Control

July 1, 2009

He had driven by it hundreds of times before. But on this particular day, the woodwaste recycling facility that Scott Bruce passed every Monday morning on the way from his home in Baton Rouge, LA, seemed to jump out at him more prominently.

“I drove past it all the time,” says Bruce, “but I remember that day vividly. Every time I drove by it I would think to myself, hey, that’s a pretty neat idea. But for some reason, on that particular day, I was compelled to pull over and call my brother, Hunter. It was the day and a phone conversation that would forever change our lives.”

At the time, Bruce managed a large account for a global manufacturer of utility equipment and spent most of his time on the road, traveling throughout a four-state territory that included Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. The money was good, but the travel had begun taking a toll. As an intuitive, entrepreneurial type, Bruce’s instincts had long told him there was something more out there, a dream not yet pursued. His brother, Hunter, was an engineer and, coincidentally, had reached a similar place in his career. Their skills were varied yet complementary. After some serious discussion and planning, the brothers joined forces.

A Dream Becomes Reality
In just four short years, SpreadRite Organics, with headquarters in Birmingham, AL, has grown to become a leading provider of organic products for the environmental erosion control and construction industries in the southeastern US. The company specializes in providing biodegradable products for sediment and erosion control. SpreadRite Organics also offers engineering consulting services to determine best management practices for various construction sites.

“We have been “˜green’ since 2004,” Bruce says. “We were definitely ahead of the environmental movement and the demand for products that protect the environment. SpreadRite Organics has also focused on providing products and services for athletic events, motor sports venues, even racetracks like Talladega Superspeedway. Our focus is to minimize the adverse effects of large crowds who converge on outdoor sites for these special events.”

Preserving the Environment-Naturally
All of the products used by SpreadRite Organics are derived from natural resources. Among them is a tubular structure used to control soil erosion and sediment displacement, appropriately named Filtrexx Soxx. Biodegradable woodwaste is blown into this tube-shaped polypropylene netting, which filters sediment-laden water, preventing silt and soil displacement while controlling erosion. When filled with compost consisting of native vegetation seeding, Filtrexx Soxx is effective in restoring stream banks by allowing vegetation to take root, securing erosion-vulnerable ditches, banks, and slopes. The netting is 100% photo-degradable.

“Mother Earth filters naturally through vegetation,” Bruce says. “But when trees are cut down and ground-cover vegetation is destroyed, exposing bare earth, water moves more freely and picks up loose dirt and soil particles as it travels. Ironically, the products we use to control the flow of that water are made with materials that, had they not been displaced, would have provided nature’s natural filtering process.”

SpreadRite Organics uses a Vermeer HG6000 horizontal grinder to process the hundreds of tons of woodwaste the company recycles each year. Bruce cites the unit’s durability and reliability as the major factors that led SpreadRite to purchase the HG6000. He also appreciates the machine’s flexibility. “Whether it’s urban wood, pallets, construction, or green woodwaste-stumps, brush, logs-the HG6000 is up for the task,” Bruce says.

The raw material is run through the grinder twice to achieve the desired product size. According to Bruce, the size of the mulch used to fill the Filtrexx Soxx will vary based on the intended functional purpose. If the objective is to filter sediment, a larger screen size is used. This produces coarser mulch that allows water to pass through the tube unobstructed while still maintaining the ability to filter out soil particles. For damming purposes, Soxx is filled with mulch that consists of finer, smaller particles.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of wood material we feed it, the HG6000 is a workhorse,” Bruce says. “The materials we use for erosion and sediment control vary in size and require different degrees of composition, so we needed a machine that lets us change out screens easily. It’s also a breeze to service, which is a big deal for us.”

Bruce encourages anyone involved in moving soil or disrupting vegetation-contractors, road crews, municipalities, developers, or utilities-to preserve the integrity of job and event sites and to learn more about recycled products.

“Our customers are anybody that should be protecting the environment due to actions they have taken to displace it,” says Harry Marintsch, operations manager for SpreadRite. “This includes cities and municipalities. The new NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] regulations state that cities and towns are liable for filtering and erosion control failures, even if they don’t perform the work themselves. Cities can now be fined for failures resulting from subcontractors’ actions. This will force city and government officials to be more diligent in monitoring the work of those they hire for municipal projects.”

Lessening the Corporate Environmental Footprint
Soon after beginning SpreadRite Organics, Bruce discovered there was a growing need among developers, construction companies, and demolition crews for woodwaste disposal. Since Bruce’s company was on the lookout for raw materials and these companies needed a disposal resource, SpreadRite established a corporate woodwaste recycling service.

“It was apparent there was a need,” Bruce says. “We found there were a number of companies who wanted to do the right thing by not disposing of construction waste and excavated organic wood in a landfill, but didn’t have any viable options at the time. We knew we could fill that need by providing services that would make it easier for them to discard their woodwaste and still accomplish their goals. As a result we are able to produce usable wood fibers that comprise the many products we use for erosion control and help our customers at the same time. Everybody wins.”

The SpreadRite Organics woodwaste division includes an onsite biomass drop-off center (for companies who have trucking and transportation capabilities) and a rolloff container program that includes delivery and pickup of containers for companies lacking transportation resources. For larger jobs, SpreadRite also offers an onsite grinding service that saves companies time and money by eliminating multiple trips to a disposal location or landfill. This combination of offerings has helped SpreadRite Organics become the leading recycler of woodwaste in the Southeast.

Other Products
True to the company’s commitment to use only environmentally friendly products, Bruce and his team of product developers invented a product called Mud-Dry. Consisting of recycled urban construction wood that serves as ground cover with moisture-wicking properties, Mud-Dry creates a crust that prevents soil movement and assists with weight displacement and migration. “Any time you can cover the soil with a product like Mud-Dry, you can minimize water runoff and soil erosion,” Bruce says.

Mud-Dry is well suited for residential and commercial work sites to minimize soil erosion and enhance worker efficiency and productivity. Additionally, it is applied to high-traffic areas at outdoor sporting events and trade shows in areas of soft, mushy soil or in otherwise muddy conditions.

“Basically, Mud-Dry is the equivalent of oil-dry in an automotive application,” Bruce says. “It’s blown on top of areas where there will be a lot of foot traffic and in areas of standing water, allowing people to enjoy the event without having to wade through mud. And the best part is that it helps maintain the integrity of the site and the environment. It does a phenomenal job.”

Making Communities Better Places to Live
SpreadRite Organics is a real-life example of how good people with close family ties and a mutual appreciation for individual qualities can be rewarded for pursuing their dream.

“We like to think we make Birmingham a better place to live,” Bruce says. “Right now, people are really embracing the green movement, and we feel very proud to have been trailblazers in that regard. It all begins with environmental preservation. We are adamant about maintaining [the natural state of the environment], and we take the role we play in maintaining the integrity of construction and event sites very seriously. Quite simply, protecting the environment is the sole reason we’re in business.”