By: Todd Schulz

Lower Michigan’s landscape is filled with waste this summer — and the view is lovely.

Consumers Energy is working with two local landscape supply and mulch production companies to recycle wood waste from a massive pipeline replacement project as mulch for businesses and homeowners.

Crews are clearing roughly 30 miles of trees and brush for the final phase of the Saginaw Trail Pipeline, a $610 million effort to modernize the natural gas infrastructure in Saginaw, Oakland and Genesee counties.

Rather than safely burn the remaining wood waste, contractors grind branches, stumps and other material before trucking it to Country Oaks Landscape Supply in Burton and J.W. Field Companies in Highland.

The landscape supply companies then further process the waste wood to create mulch for garden centers, landscape contractors and individual homeowners. Ultimately, the mulch is lining flower beds, gardens, shrubs and trees at homes and businesses throughout the region.

Creating “Something Useful”

We’re caring for the environment as we replace 78 miles of natural gas pipeline in Saginaw, Genesee and Oakland counties.

“We’re taking waste and repurposing it into something useful for this area,” said Tom Hess, a Consumers Energy environmental contractor who works daily on the pipeline right-of-way.

The Country Oaks Landscape Supply processing center is located near the Saginaw Trail Pipeline construction route. In 2019, Consumers Energy began trucking wood waste to the company, which has received thousands of cubic feet to transform into mulch it can sell.

“It’s nice clean material,” Country Oaks owner Mark Cherry said. “It makes a nice finished product we can use for mulches and composts.”

Cherry also is using the waste wood to fuel a sophisticated, energy-efficient composting system that provides heat for his 3,500-square-foot facility, helping the environment and lowering his monthly energy bill.

“My experience with Consumers Energy has been great,” he said.

Perfect Timing

At J.W. Field, owner Jeff Field was wondering how to meet unusually high demand for the mulch his company produces — until the opportunity to accept waste wood from the Saginaw Trail Pipeline project was presented.

“It all worked out super,” said Field, whose 5-acre facility is also near the pipeline construction route. “It’s been such a fabulous year for mulch that I was running low on wood chips. Early on, I was worried.”

Consumers Energy contractors have delivered roughly 30,000 cubic yards of waste wood to J.W. Field in 90-yard truckloads. The average dump truck that delivers mulch to a home or business usually holds about 5 yards.

“We’ve sold more mulch than ever this season,” Field said. “I’ll do it again in a heartbeat if I have the space.” In recent years, the Saginaw Trail Pipeline has recycled wood mats used for temporary roads as fuel for a biomass plant, and provided trees cleared from the construction zone for a dam replacement project that created new fish habitat in Corunna.

Consumers Energy is also protecting wildlife and creating new habitat for bees and butterflies on the pipeline route. The pipeline replacement project is part of the company’s Natural Gas Delivery Plan to improve safety and reliability by modernizing Michigan’s natural gas infrastructure.