Mulch Manufacturing, National Storm Recovery Merge To Become The Sustainable Green Team

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By P.J. Heller

It could turn out to be one of the most notable marriages of 2020.

No, not the Dennis Quaid and Laura Savoie nuptials, or the tying of the knot between Princess Beatrice and Edo Mapelli Mozzi, or even the exchanging of vows between Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost.

We’re talking here about something more down to earth: the joining together of Mulch Manufacturing and National Storm Recovery into the Sustainable Green Team.

Both Ralph Spencer, chief executive officer of Mulch Manufacturing, and Tony Raynor, CEO of the Sustainable Green Team, both said the combination of businesses created “an industry powerhouse.”

“This looked like a good marriage for several reasons,” explained John Spencer, who founded Mulch Manufacturing in 1985 in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The company has since grown to become one of the largest wholesale and retail mulch suppliers in the nation.

National Storm Recovery, based in Florida, provides storm and disaster recovery services, including dangerous tree removal, debris hauling and debris management. Its subsidiary, Central Florida Arbor Care, specializes in tree removal, tree care and services, stump grinding, grapple hauling and storm recovery.  

The combined companies, now under the banner of the Sustainable Green Team, reported revenues of $24.5 million for the first nine months of 2020.

“The Sustainable Green Team was created by combining the resources of three companies which were leaders in their specialty to create a company which could address the needs of each of the combined customers with a new level of quality and cost effectiveness,” said Mulch Manufacturing.

The merger with National Storm Recovery made eminent sense for Mulch Manufacturing, John Spencer said, noting that it gave the company a continuing source of feedstock for mulch at no cost.

“The most prominent reason [for the merger] is access to feedstock for mulch,” he said. The merger, he said, addressed the problem of feedstock availability and the fact that “the cost of lumber has gone through the roof.

“We have a sawmill so we know a lot about the price of lumber and timber,” he added. “It keeps getting more expensive and more expensive. And the availability keeps going down. We were paying top dollar for the wood fiber. We bought it either locally, for hardwoods, or were shipping cypress up here [to Ohio] by rail.”

As part of the merger, Mulch Manufacturing closed its processing facility in Ohio and moved the operation to Florida, which among other things gave it better access to cypress.

These days, National Storm Recovery gets paid to collect logs from its governmental, residential and commercial customers and then brings them to the mulch facility.

“The only cost for us is grinding it into mulch,” John Spencer said.

The merger also allowed Mulch Manufacturing to expand its operations in Florida. National Storm Recovery will market Mulch Manufacturing’s Softscape mulch products throughout central Florida as well as other bulk and bagged cypress mulch products that it produces.

 “It extends our reach, it gives us more production capability in the area where the raw materials are, and enhances our ability to get a supply of feedstock,” John Spencer said.

National Storm Recovery also benefitted from the merger which occurred in early 2020. Among the benefits was the fact that by diverting its wood debris to Mulch Manufacturing, it no longer had to pay dump fees at the local Waste Management landfill in central Florida to dispose of the material.  

Waste Management, one of the largest solid waste management companies in North America, “is under a lot of pressure to get wood fiber out of the landfill and out of the waste stream,” John Spencer said.

That may account for the fact that the Sustainable Green Team’s wood debris recycling facility is located within Waste Management’s Vista landfill in Apopka, Fla. A dual line mulch bagger and fully automated electric grinding screening operation was completed at the facility in July.

Raynor said the facility is now able to increase its mulch production by 4 million bags per year within one shift in the facility.

“The completion on both the dual line mulch bagger and fully automated electric grinding screening operations will allow full vertical integration at WM’s (Waste Management’s) landfill by utilizing unused debris that would normally be buried there,” the company said in statement announcing completion of the facility. “The unused debris will now be reused and branded into a premium mulch product through the new, fully electric equipment installed within the facility.”

Raynor called the effort “a pivotal advancement.

“With our strong relationship with Waste Management, we are progressing toward achieving true green sustainability,” he said.

John Spencer said downfall from the mulch making process would be used as a growing medium to cap the landfill.

“And they’ll pay us,” he said. “So we turned a cost operation into a profitable operation.”

It was not known if similar operations would be set up at other Waste Management sites.

“The company’s primary corporate objective is to provide a solution for the treatment and handling of tree debris that is historically sent to local landfills and disposal sites, creating an environmental burden and pressure on disposal sites around the nation,” Raynor said. 

Corporate headquarters for Mulch Manufacturing remain in Ohio. The company also maintains another mulch plant in Florida and in Georgia operates what is described as the largest all-cypress sawmill facility in the U.S. A nearby mulch plant has been merged into the sawmill operation.

“We call it our cypress mulch plant with lumber as a byproduct,” John Spencer said.

National Storm Recovery is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.

Both John Spencer and Raynor said the merger of National Storm Recovery and Mulch Manufacturing was “beneficial for both companies.”

Raynor noted that the merger provided the company with a significantly larger footprint in the mulch industry. He cited Mulch Manufacturing’s national distribution, its sales contracts with big box retailers and the increase in production and packaging capacity it provides.

“Not only does this transaction make good economic sense, but we both share the same vision and commitment of providing environmentally friendly products to the public . . .” added Ralph Spencer. “The belief that we are ‘stewards of the environment’ should not be understated.”

John Spencer, who handed control of the business over to his son late last year, agreed that Mulch Manufacturing has the product line and distribution system to address a substantial customer base which can be expanded. John Spencer, 83, remains active in the business.

“National Storm Recovery generates a large volume of wood fiber which can feed the raw material needs of Mulch Manufacturing and Central Florida Arbor Care has an impressive customer base in the landscaping and nursery business in central Florida,” Mulch Manufacturing said.  “This combined mixture of customers, products, raw materials, knowledge and transportation assets makes an impressive opportunity to address a large and expanding business base.”

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