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Compactor Turns Lawn Clippings Into Silage Bales

Lawn clippings headed for the landfill may soon be headed to feedlots instead. Green Turf Landscapes’ BioPac’r compresses 3 to 4 pickup loads of grass clippings into one. With the bagging attachment, the compressed clippings quickly turn into high quality silage.
  “It eliminates trips to the landfill and gives lawn care companies a product they can sell,” says Todd Graus, owner of Green Turf Landscapes’ Yellowstone Compact & Commodities Corp. (YCC). “Colorado State University (CSU) researchers have told us the lawn clipping silage produces higher gain than traditional feeds. We think it may be worth $100 per ton.”
  Graus says his two-man landscape crew produces 135 to 150 tons of grass clippings in a season. “Using the BioPac’r, they save about $15,000 in labor from reduced landfill trips and make more than $6,000 worth of silage,” he adds.
  Graus says his prototype is designed to fit in the back of a full-size pickup. It has a compression chamber that is 30 by 40 in. and about 70 in. deep.
  The chamber is loaded from the top. A rear-mounted compression plate operates on screw rods driven by sprockets and a chain. A very high torque, 24-volt motor running off two car batteries powers the drive.
  “I wanted an easy-to-maintain mechanical drive with no potential for oil leaks,” says Graus. “The battery-powered unit is self contained, and the batteries only need to be charged up once a week. We are considering offering an option for a solar panel-powered trickle charger.”
  He also wanted an easy-to-handle compressed product. If it’s to be made into silage, the compressed grass block slides into an attached bagger. Graus is working with a plastics company to make a bag strong enough to carry the weight of the compressed grass.
  If the grass is going to the landfill, the operator simply backs into position and unloads the compressed bale off the end of the pickup bed.
  “We can take the BioPac’r in and out of the pickup with a standard engine hoist,” says Graus. “The prototype weighs 1,200 lbs., but we hope to get it down to 1,000 lbs.”
  Graus points out that proper compression is the key to handling lawn clippings. Too much pressure and the high moisture grass liquefies. Not enough pressure leaves too much air in the grass, letting it heat and rapidly mold. Graus is confident he has it just right and considers that pressure level a trade secret, one he hopes to soon put to use on a larger scale.
  “We are getting bids from several manufacturers for building the BioPac’r,” says Graus. “We hope to get the price under $12,000 and perhaps as low as $10,000.”
  Graus is also getting ready to capitalize on the availability of a new feedstock. He started YCC to sell both the BioPac’r and to serve as a silage broker for landscape firms making silage.
  “I will try to find buyers and sellers and get them together,” says Graus.
  Part of his work will be to ensure quality control. He has developed a pesticide residue kit for grading silage safety. The CSU researchers assured him that any pesticide residue on the grass clippings is broken down by the biological action during the fermentation process. That has been borne out.
  “After three weeks, you can’t find anything,” he says. “As a market develops for the grass silage, we hope it will encourage reduced use of pesticides on lawns. We have found that our customers are less concerned about weed escapes when they know the grass is going to feed cattle.”
  The BioPac’r can also serve double duty compressing solid waste, notes Graus. “It can crush beer cans and compress bagged loose trash just like a commercial garbage truck does,” he says. “It could be used as a satellite solid waste station.”
  Graus says one Midwestern state is considering installing BioPac’rs at landfills in the state. Lawn waste would be compressed and bagged for sale as biofuel or simply compressed to take up less space in the landfill.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Yellowstone Compact & Commodities Corp., 3510 South Park Dr., Jackson Hole, Wyo. 83001 (ph 307 203-2736; info@biopacr.com; www.biopacr.com).

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2013 - Volume #37, Issue #4