What do you do with thousands of trees, most of them burned to some degree, that have been cut down? If you’re Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, you recycle them. In the aftermath of the September wildfires in Bastrop County, we are making good use of the fallen trees.
“That was one of the first decisions we made when we started clearing trees from the burn zone,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “We didn’t want all those trees to end up in a landfill somewhere, so we looked for a more environmentally friendly solution.”
We looked at a couple of options and chose Austin Wood Recycling to haul away the debris and turn it into mulch. After being run through a chipper, two passes through a grinder and spending about a year in a compost pile, the trees that were killed or damaged by fire will be sold as the company’s Texas Native Hardwood Mulch. Landscape companies will be able to buy it in bulk and consumers will be able to buy it in bags at a number of home-improvement stores and nurseries around Texas in nine months to a year.
By the end of October, Bluebonnet had cleared more than 42,000 cubic yards of debris in the Bastrop County burn zone. All of that and more will end up in yards, gardens or flower beds, helping give new life to other growing things.
The owner of Austin Wood Recycling, Mike Martin, was a successful stock trader working in the World Trade Center in the mid-1980s. Originally from Sarasota, Fla., he and his wife wanted to raise their family in the south. He considered buying several companies and settled on a small mowing and lot-clearing company in Austin in 1985.
At the beginning, Martin’s company was taking load after load to the landfill. He thought it was a wasteful way to dispose of trees and shrubs, so he bought a chipper. About 20 years later, what started with a single chipper has evolved into Austin Wood Recycling.
“There is a lot of recycling out there that makes environmental sense, but not economic sense,” Martin said. “This is the only (recycling) business that I know of that makes good economic and environmental sense. This stuff turns back into the Earth. It doesn’t make any sense to just leave it in a landfill.”
We at Bluebonnet agree.