To say John Desrosiers had little experience when he got started in the organics recycling business would be a tremendous understatement. His company, 1 Stop Landscape and Brick Pavers Supply, Bradenton, Fla., was literally started out of necessity rather than choice.
But that lack of experience and the completely uninfluenced approach he took to the business allowed him to discover some opportunities that a seasoned veteran may have never even thought to consider. That out-of-the-box thinking has positioned 1 Stop as a serious operation in two short years, and some new processes that Desrosiers has recently developed are looking to further boost that competitiveness.
The company was started when Desrosiers found himself a landlord without a tenant. As the owner of a facility occupied by another resource recovery operation, it was left vacant when that company moved to build a new site.
When he realized that the permits for the location were issued to the site and not the operators, he went shopping for anyone to move into an established yard-complete with scale and permits. When it became clear that a tenant would never materialize, Desrosiers decided to give it a go for himself.
Desrosiers’ immediate challenge wasn’t supply. His company was bringing in source material from all the landscapers, land-clearing contractors and some of the larger land developers in town. After being ground into mulch, the challenge was finding customers to take the finished product.
“We were going all around town, trying to find anyone to take 2-3 loads, or 1,000 loads if we could,” Desrosiers says. “We were in a constant hunt to get rid of the green waste. But it was really all we knew how to do.”
So Desrosiers had a better idea. He started by separating all the hardwood from his source material that exceeded 3-in. around. Previously, he had been using his high-speed grinder to process everything, but quickly realized that was definitely not the best course of action. He began researching a slow-speed shredding solution, and invested in a Doppstadt DW 3060 to conduct a primary reduction prior to feeding the material in the grinder.
Desrosiers’ choice of a Doppstadt shredder was an easy one. “Much of the material I take in, especially from the land-clearing operations, is very dirty and contains a high amount of ungrindable content that was just tearing up and wearing out the grinder,” Desrosiers says. “But the way the Doppstadt handled it was so effortless; combined with how easily it would chew through stumps and other large source, it really sold me. It took so much less time to get the product through the [Doppstadt] 3060 that the resulting wood mulch could be produced for far less cost in much less time.
“The larger source material was a killer on the grinder, and we were spending $600 to $800 a day on fuel alone, running two passes, sometimes more,” Desrosiers says. “Now I can produce even more product, in the same amount of time, and my fuel costs are down to only around $50 per day. With fuel costs going as they are, that is a very significant benefit.”
After processing, the material is then screened to separate the overs from the final product. Desrosiers also turned to Doppstadt to perform this function. “We went with the Doppstadt SM 620 trommel,” he says. “With the flexibility and variability of the control, we really couldn’t find a better machine. Currently, we’re running a 3/4-in. drum, and the initial process with the slow-speed primary shredding produces such a consistent product, that we’re getting less than 30 percent overs in the final mix. The two machines really complement each other and make our operation so much more efficient.”
While the overs that are collected are diverted back to the windrows to be reclaimed, the final product quality Desrosiers is producing now far exceeds that which came from just the grinder alone. His customers’ reaction is proof. “In Florida,” says Desrosiers, “cypress mulch has always been the standard preference for landscapers; but [the customers] started coming in and stopping at the hardwood mulch bin and it looked so much better [than the cypress] that they went with that instead. Now it is such a hot seller that I don’t even carry the cypress mulch anymore. I can’t produce enough of our hardwood mulch to keep it on the ground.”
From the beginning, Desrosiers has always had a goal of establishing a true, 100-percent recycled material facility. “Many other operations call themselves 100 percent, but most will just take their mulch find someone who will let them just dump it; so it’s not really being recycled, rather it’s just getting stacked up somewhere.” What Desrosiers has done is quite creative, and truly positions 1 Stop as a 100-percent recycled yard.
After separating out the larger source to produce the hardwood mulch, Desrosiers takes the remaining green waste, which is quite substantial, and runs it through a pass in the grinder. That material is then brought to Jerry Daken Dairy, an 800-head dairy farm located near 1 Stop, and spread around the cattle feeders. After about a year, the material is recollected and returned to Desrosiers’ facility where it is windrowed and allowed to compost further.
“When I first approached Jerry with the proposal, he and his wife were quite open to it and had actually been considering a similar idea already themselves,” Desrosiers says. “Jerry Daken Dairy is a very progressive facility. He’s even looking into adding a digester, which would allow him to produce enough electricity from his cattle byproducts to power 700 homes.”
After the windrow has reduced in volume by about 60 percent, the resulting product is very nitrogen rich compost that is enormously water retentive. “Regularly composted green waste will typically have a .5 percent nitrogen content,” Desrosiers says. “We have ours tested once a month and have been able to consistently achieve a 3.5 percent nitrogen content. This is a fantastic product for a first application top dressing before applying sod to new landscapes. Because the soil in Florida is so sandy, this product provides a much more water-retentive base, as well as an organic fertilizer source. We’re working with the homebuilders to have them add a 4-in. layer of our material, instead of putting down regular fill dirt, and then installing the sod over that. It results in such a significant reduction of watering requirements that it is proving to be very efficient in a market where water supply scarcity is an issue.”
With such a successful product mix, Desrosiers is now focusing his attention and investment on building an efficient infrastructure to develop the best system for harvesting the compost, loading semis, managing his space and marketing the product. Currently, 1 Stop is able to produce up to 1,000 cu. yd. of product a day, with nearly 15,000 cu. yd. of unprocessed material on the first field alone.
Work to do
Desrosiers admits he still has some work to do in creating the demand, but his focus is unwavering. “It’s like the cypress mulch…that used to just be the way things were done down here, but now everybody wants the hardwood mulch instead,” Desrosiers says. “So I’m confident the product’s performance will quickly be realized as more and more builders and landscapers understand the organic fertilizing and water retention benefits it provides.”
Desrosiers has been working to create both retail and wholesale demand for his compost product, approaching area soil baggers, such as Black Cow, to offer it as an alternative topping.
Because of his complete lack of initial experience, Desrosiers was able to come into an industry with no preconceived ideas or preprogrammed concepts. As a result, he was able to figure things out on his own, and discover completely new ways of running his operation that others may have never thought to try.
“When I got started, I tried not to look at my green waste as bad waste, but rather how can I make it pay me, rather than cost me, Desrosiers says. “In the beginning, dealing with the green waste was an expense, but now I’ve been able to turn it into a very high-quality product with dirt-like consistency, with all the organic benefits it provides.”
With his ability to turn an industry from cypress mulch to hardwood mulch, turn waste material from a line-item expense to a profitable product, and turn an empty facility into a true 100 percent recycled yard, Desrosiers has done remarkably well in a venture that he never went looking for. Sometimes, inexperience can be a really good thing.