Lower Fuel Costs, Less Down Time are Key Benefits from Doppstadt Stationary Electric Equipment
There are probably dozens of green waste recycling companies in Houston, ranging wildly in size, scope, and competence. Anyone can acquire a few machines, license a yard and start accepting material to process. But the few operations that rise to the top will admit that it takes a keen understanding of equipment, fuel, labor, and throughput to be successful and turn a consistent profit. One such outfit is The Group Up, and General Manager Grant Williamson is constantly minding the process.
“We operate a 27-acre green waste processing and composting facility in Houston proper. If you’re not paying attention to downtime, fuel costs, maintenance, labor, handling, and your true cost per yard, it can be a brutal business for sure,” he admits.
The Ground Up has been doing this for twenty years, and Grant has been helping to steadily improve operations since he came on board five years ago. On the surface, the process seems fairly straightforward, but understanding the intricacies of material processing can be tricky.
Input Preparation is Key to Quality Compost
“We bring 100% of our inputs through the gate, charging a tipping fee for the service. Our drop-off customers are largely commercial landscapers who bring us trees, brush, leaves, and grass,” shares Grant. “We also get a couple of loads a day of pre-consumer food waste from an area company that does cut fruit and vegetable canning. But most of it is your standard 40-yard container.”
While the largest debris is separated for individual reduction, the vast majority of that material is piled up and fed through a high-speed grinder to prep it for composting. With a parent company primarily in the storm debris removal business (this is Houston after all), grinders are not in short supply.
“We have a ton of tubs and horizontal grinders at our disposal around here,” chuckles Grant. “Most of it is run with a six-inch or six-by-nine screen for the initial grind.”
And even with the few loads of fruit and vegetable waste, they receive each day, the amount is hardly enough for a parallel food waste composting process so it too gets mixed with the green waste.
“It [the food waste] is only about 3-5% of the total volume, so it functions mostly as necessary added moisture.”
Screen Throughput Impacts Total Output
After composting, the finished product is screened for sale, with overs recirculated through the grinder to be introduced for another pass in the compost pile.
For the average organics processor, a wash-rinse-repeat approach would be appropriate. But The Ground Up is constantly analyzing the business of processing, and in 2019 Grant spent some time researching how to improve their finishing performance.
“It was a number of factors that were negatively impacting production,” he details “Throughput wasn’t where it could be to support better upstream performance, the material consistency didn’t thrill me, the fuel costs for screening really stuck out. We knew there was an improvement that could be made, and since everything in our yard eventually ends up being screened, it was the obvious place to start for making the whole process more efficient.”
So Grant turned to La Grange-based McCourt Equipment for ideas, who in turn brought in Ecoverse to discuss the potential for a Doppstadt stationary trommel screen.
Stationary Electric Trommel Solution
“McCourt has always been there for us in the past, and we’ve been pleased with the Ecoverse team when we purchased our Backers 3-mta star screen, so they were both instrumental in helping us choose the SST 1025.”
The acquisition of a stationary component is the first piece of electric equipment in the company, but Grant was certain it was the right decision even before approaching McCourt and Ecoverse.
“Our parent company has a mobile mindset, and they should since most of their business is in storm response and civil projects and land clearing,” he explains. “But we’re a permanent business unit and it makes more sense for us to invest capital in a permanent screening plant.”
Grant concedes it was a bit of an effort getting through the installation since a permanent component requires some necessary infrastructure. But after a year of impact, the outcomes have far exceeded expectations.
High-Volume Performance at the Flip of a Switch
“We didn’t quite realize it, but the biggest advantage really comes down to uptime,” he admits. “You just flip a switch and go to work. It’s so simple but so significant. By taking out a diesel engine, you eliminate the warm-up time, you eliminate the mechanical issues, you don’t have the badly timed oil leak. You just flip a switch at 6:45 in the morning and you’re screening at 7:00.”
The overall screening surface of the Doppstadt punch-plate drum is larger than the mesh screen trommel it replaced, so hour for hour the throughput has been greater. But the additional throughput gained from more uptime has further improved total output.
Eliminating their diesel fuel costs also delivered a massive financial payoff to the overall operation.
“Even with off-the-rack pricing of $1.75 per gallon of diesel, last month on our Doppstadt stationary electric trommel, we paid only $565 in electricity for the entire month!” Grant exclaims. “We’re sure of that figure too because it runs on its own meter. So the fuel savings coupled with the greater throughput and more reliable uptime has been a real transformation for us. I wish every equipment purchase would exceed expectations like this!”
It took some vision to get to this point—acquiring and installing the stationary electric Doppstadt SST 1025 was not the lowest cost option available to them, and being the first to install a stationary 1025 in all of Texas (perhaps even in all the South) took a leap of faith and some trust in their equipment partners.
Equipment Partners Prepared for the Future
“We spoke with McCourt. We had Ecoverse come out and work with us on multiple occasions. They came up with a plan for us, and between all those conversations a great solution was developed. It really is exceptional service and customer support.”
The newfound capacity couldn’t have come at a better time. Houston is one of the fastest-growing markets in the country, and in 2020, the pandemic actually resulted in The Ground Up being busier as people stayed home and working in their yards and landscaping more.
“I know so many people really struggled this year  but in our business, we were probably up 15 percent. We’re very thankful for that. But Houston has also been growing at a double-digit clip for almost a decade now, and there is just no sign of that ending any time soon.”
Any complacent organics processor can ride a straightforward process and run their equipment into the ground. But by focusing on every stage of operations, understanding all the metrics, and exploring the real and total cost of production makes a market leader. The Ground Up has earned that reputation.