Embracing sustainability on Earth Day: Real-world benefits of green waste recycling

Ginny Shikle

Apr 22, 2024 9:08:07 AM

As the world celebrates Earth Day, Michael Hatcher & Associates is leading by example when it comes to environmental stewardship. Rather than send truckloads of shrub and plant clippings, leaves, and branches to the landfill, we operate an in-house composting program that turns green waste into nutrient-rich compost for our commercial landscape projects.

“It allows for us to recycle plant material and debris taken from our maintenance and construction jobs into a product that we can use during the installation of future jobs,” says Will Comstock, Senior Operations Manager in Commercial Maintenance. “Once it is broken down sufficiently, it is mixed with sand and used as planting prep on our construction jobs.”Green Waste 2_20240420_web

With the recycling initiative, the company has been able to divert hundreds of tons of green waste from ending up in the trash. The nutrient-dense organic material it becomes is then used on landscape construction projects, creating a closed-loop system that benefits the environment and helps the bottom line.

Company Founder and Chairman Michael Hatcher says the green initiative was a foundational component during the initial vision and design phase of The Landscape Center in DeSoto County, Mississippi, where the 38-year-old commercial landscape business moved its headquarters from neighboring Memphis, Tennessee, in 2016.

“With ample acreage at The Landscape Center, a dedicated space was created to be both environmentally friendly and improve overall operational efficiency to handle our growing waste,” Hatcher says, also noting that in addition to composting the company brings in soil excavated from jobsites to reuse on other projects. “It’s a way to reduce our environmental impact through sustainable landscaping and waste management practices.”

Both operations are located on 1.8 acres at the back of the property on Center Hill Road. To the south of the dirt heap, crews bring in leaves, old mulch, tree limbs, and clippings from shrubs and plants to stockpile until they are broken down.

“This is 100% our debris from commercial projects. We do not accept from the general public” or other landscape companies, says Jeff Peterman, GM of Commercial Construction. “Once a year, we contract with Yardworks to come grind our waste pile into a smaller, usable product.”

Yardworks, a mulch provider in Memphis, brings an excavator to feed the green waste into a tub grinder, which shreds/grinds it into compost later used as prep/soil amendment for commercial projects.Green Waste_20231218_web

Overall, the program has multiple benefits, “First, by providing cost savings with a usable product that costs us next to nothing versus purchasing other soil amendments and their delivery fees,” Peterman says. “Secondly, by affording us efficiencies in unnecessary crew hours spent dumping at other facilities as well as the dump fees themselves. And probably the most important benefit has been the decrease in our overall solid waste for the company. The environmental impact of decreasing our contributions to landfills is relatively small in its global impact, but we feel we can all start somewhere.”

Peterman says he is aware of other landscape companies that have similar operations, so the Hatcher operation isn’t unique to the industry.

“We won’t pretend that we came up with the idea,” he says, “but we have definitely taken our form of a green initiative to something bigger than we could have imagined.”

Ginny Shikle

Written by Ginny Shikle