New York town processing more material as population grows
By Gregg Hennigan, features writer
For the Town of Greece in western New York, processing the yard and tree waste of its residents is viewed as a civic duty.
Residents can drop off trees, brush and yard waste for free at the town’s Yard Waste Management Facility. They also can pick up processed recycled products for free, including wood chips, compost and top soil. Residents may also cut firewood from trees and limbs placed by town staff at this location to take home — again, free of charge.
“Most of the material the town processes is given back to residents for them to use for personal use,” says Kirk Morris, commissioner of public works. “If there’s a community project, we’ll also provide wood chips or leaf compost.”
The program is so popular that Morris says his biggest challenge is keeping up with the amount of material generated by his growing community, which has approximately 95,000 residents and is a suburb of Rochester.
Meeting demand is not a problem, however. In addition to trees and brush being brought to the facility by town workers, Greece recently started a new service allowing private contractors to receive permits to trim and remove trees in the town and drop off the material they’ve removed from homes and commercial properties to this location.
Morris credits the town’s new horizontal grinder and trommel screen as a large part of the success that makes this program feasible.
“As a result of using the equipment that we purchased from Vermeer, we’re able to process materials more efficiently, faster and are able to provide finished product,” he says. “We were able to start that program knowing that there’d be much more material coming to the site, but that we’d be able to handle it with the equipment we have.”
The town processes 2,903 tons (2,633.6 T) of waste annually at its 120-acre (48.6 ha) Yard Waste Management Facility. It has a separate 40-acre (16.2 ha) compost center up the road from the transfer station that handles approximately 16,000 cubic yards (12,232.9 m3) of leaf compost a year.
Morris says the size of each facility gives the town enough space to accommodate the increasing amount of material brought in by residents and contractors. He also says their size and distance from homes helps alleviate potential odor concerns.
Much of the material is dropped off by residents and contractors. The town accepts a variety of material, including brush, leaves, tree waste, top soil and concrete. The town picks up brush, tree waste and leaves at residential properties for no additional charge. It also will deliver wood chips and compost for a nominal fee to help defray fuel and equipment costs.
Drop-off is at the front of the transfer station. Public works employees haul the material to the rear of the yard, where it’s stockpiled. Town equipment is used to move the piles and to load material in the facility’s horizontal grinder.
Greece recently replaced an old tub grinder with a Vermeer horizontal grinder. Morris says it’s a better fit for them because it processes the material more efficiently, and employees have found it easier to operate and maintain. It also has a smaller footprint than their previous grinder but is more productive.
“We had originally expected to get a piece of equipment similar in size to what the tub grinder was,” Morris says. “After talking with our dealer, we found that we didn’t need as big a piece of equipment. This was more powerful and a better piece of equipment for us.”
Greece also bought a Vermeer trommel screen at the same time. The town was able to use a state grant to help purchase those two pieces of equipment. Once the cost of the equipment was determined, they found that there were additional funds left which allowed them to buy an excavator for the Yard Waste Management Facility. Also because of those savings, the town ordered the horizontal grinder with tracks and remote control.
“Our old tub grinder either was left in place or pulled around with a dolly,” Morris says. “My employees will tell you that the maneuverability of the tracked unit is incredibly beneficial. The operator is able to maneuver around very quickly and easily. It saves time.”
Processed material put to good use
The Greece Public Works Department typically double grinds the material. It uses a 5-inch (12.7 cm) screen for the initial grind and then processes it again with a 2-1/2-inch (6.4 cm) screen, which is the size residents prefer for recycled wood chips.
Much of the chips are used by residents for their yards. The Public Works Department also donates wood chips to organizations undertaking outdoor projects, such as schools, the County and the town’s Fire and Police Departments for use outside their stations. Any wood chips that remain at the end of the year are sold through an open-bid process. The same is true of compost.
The trommel screen is used to screen top soil for use on town projects or for restoration work — for example, restoring lawns in the spring that were impacted by snow plow operations the previous winter or following drainage work. The Public Works Department uses a 5/8-inch (1.6 cm) screen.
The Town of Greece Department of Public Works is a diverse department, overseeing roads, bridges, sidewalks, sanitary sewers, parks, refuse and more. Having wood chips, top soil and compost to support those projects is a good use of resources for the town, which is always budget-conscious because of its reliance on taxpayers. Morris says the same is true of having efficient equipment.
“The horizontal grinder and trommel screen help us be much more efficient with our operation and consumables, which generally speaking, when you’re a municipality, you’re always looking for that,” Morris says.