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Illinois Municipality Expands Recycling

Road district relies on DuraTech model 3010 for grinding brush, other wood waste

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 10/1/2003

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP, Illinois — Bob (Robert J.) Miller, an Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner, can easily recall what first got him interested in road improvement and maintenance. "I always liked to operate heavy equipment," he said.

So, right out of high school, Bob went to work as a laborer with the road district. "I find it fascinating," he said, even after 30 years. There have been a lot of changes in equipment and approaches in three decades, Bob noted. But each one of them has made the work he does even more fascinating.

"The equipment is so much quieter now," he said, assessing some of the biggest improvements he has seen in technology. "Everything is computer controlled."

One of the newer, quieter, high-tech machines newly in service at Algonquin Township is a DuraTech 3010 industrial tub grinder. The DuraTech model 3010 is powered by an electronic 463 C-15 Cat diesel engine.

The road district, which is also known as the highway department, incorporates all or part of 10 municipalities, explained Bob. The eight employees of the road district maintain the highways in an area serving 90,000 people. The staff also runs a very active recycling program that collects and breathes more life into everything from unwanted tree limbs to latex paint.

The DuraTech model 3010 was purchased this year. For the last two years wood recycling relied on a DuraTech HD-9 grinder. Because interest in wood waste conversion to mulch grew so rapidly, Algonquin Twp. wanted a bigger machine.

Algonquin Twp. sold the DuraTech HD-9 to another township. When the HD-9 was sold, it was in virtually as good a shape as when it was new, according to Bob. Settling on the DuraTech 3010 for the upgrade in grinder capacity was an easy decision, said Bob. "We thought it was the best value for the dollar."

The township did plenty of trials. "We did a demo of just about everything out there," said Bob."

In a typical week, The DuraTech 3010 sees 16 hours of service, eight hours on Monday and eight hours on Friday. The hours are expanded as needed. For example, if a storm creates a large amount of brush, the grinder will be powered up to match the increased demand for service.

"In winter, we have a Christmas tree recycling" effort, said Bob. The DuraTech 3010 will be used for that as well. The grindings go to a local conservation district that uses them for lining trails. Bob knows the DuraTech 3010 will have an easy time with the discarded Christmas trees because he already has used it to handle tough materials, like telephone poles and pallets.

Because the DuraTech 3010 only started service in Algonquin Twp. in 2003, Bob does not have production figures yet. However, he said that grinding wood waste once a month with the DuraTech HD-9 resulted in 1,940 cubic yards of mulch last year. The DuraTech 3010 has at least doubled capacity per hour, he said, and output will depend on how much the machine is used.

Algonquin Twp. does all its own equipment maintenance. Eight months into its tenure, the DuraTech 3010 is a strong performer, said Bob. "We have yet to replace a hammer," he explained. "We torque it down" before each use to get better wear.

"My operator tells me he’s impressed with the low wear on the hammer," said Bob. Indeed, that is operator, singular. It takes just one person to run the DuraTech 3010, another aspect of the machine that Bob appreciates.

As keen as he has been to ratchet up recycling programs for the township, Bob has been determined to do so without incurring additional costs. The ease of adding the DuraTech 3010 has been very welcome. "We rolled it right in," said Bob, "and we haven’t added any employees."

The highway workers will pick up brush for anyone living along a road maintained by the Algonquin Twp. Road District. No grass clippings, leaves or vegetable waste are collected. People who do not live on a maintained road may bring brush to the township facility on the last Saturday of every month.

To expedite curbside pickup, Algonquin Twp. has two explicit requirements: butt ends are supposed to face the roadway, and branches must be 2-10 inches in diameter.

A Morbark brush chipper is usually taken to roadside pickups for chipping unwieldy piles of brush. The chips are put into the DuraTech 3010 later. In fact, all of the material that is converted into mulch goes through two grinds.

"Our whole goal is to recycle," said Bob. The better the quality of the mulch, the more it is used and the faster it disappears, he said. Hence, double grinding, which produces higher quality mulch, makes sense.

None of the mulch is sold. It is available under lights for pickup 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Area residents who help themselves to the mulch are not allowed to sell it. "In spring, we can’t keep up with the demand," said Bob.

The Algonquin Twp. Road District offices and the grinding and recycling operation occupy the same three-acre site. One acre is set aside for the grinding operations.

Occasionally the DuraTech 3010 is moved to other sites, usually to do a special grinding job for another municipality. Willows and oaks predominate among the tree species in the region, but Bob said there is a little of "everything."

A metal separator is built into the DuraTech 3010. At the end of a day of grinding, it may have as much as one five-gallon bucket of scrap metal, said Bob. That metal is recycled, too.

A four-in-one bucket on a John-Deere front-end loader is used for placing chips and other wood waste — even some logs — into the DuraTech 3010. (Many logs do not make it into the grinder; instead, they are made available to residents for firewood.)

Although the DuraTech 3010 is relatively new to Algonquin Twp., recycling has been going on there for almost 10 years. Shortly after being elected to his first four-year term as Commissioner in 1993, Bob solicited input from residents about the needs of the community. Recycling was a high priority, and it got started in 1994.

When brush recycling first began, chips were the final product. "We always used to have a problem getting rid of wood chips," said Bob, noting the township "always had a mountain of wood chips." The pile grew so large it became "unsightly," he said. Different strategies were tried to hold the mound of chips to an inconspicuous size, including renting a tub grinder once each year to make mulch. Still, the chips accumulated.

Making mulch has been a great solution, said Bob, because residents of Algonquin Twp. appreciate and use the regular source of landscaping material. The township facility also uses the mulch. "We just re-landscaped our entire site," said Bob, "and used our own mulch."

Today, the grinding operations are part of a comprehensive recycling effort at Algonquin Twp. Road District. "We’re very proud of what we’ve done here," said Bob.

Bob is very willing to share information about how Algonquin Twp. has accomplished so much, and he encourages anyone interested in recycling to contact him. He is always eager to learn more, too. "If anyone has similar experiences they would like to share," he said, he would like to hear from them. The recycling program at Algonquin Twp. ranks as one of the most sophisticated in Illinois townships, according to Bob.

One of the lessons he learned in starting a diverse program of recycling is that it begins with identifying needs. In the instance of Algonquin Twp., landfills stopped taking yard waste before the township started its recycling program. So residents were looking for a place to dispose of brush, and the introduction of recycling was very welcome.

Of course, many materials are unwelcome in landfills and pose disposal problems. To deal with them, Algonquin Twp. continues to add to its list of materials it recycles. Working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the township participates in the Partners in Paint Solutions program. Last year, the township recycled 10,560 gallons of latex paint. The EPA provides five gallon buckets for that effort, as well as 55-gallon drums for paint that cannot be reclaimed and must be eliminated. The paint recycling program began in 1996.

Approached by mechanics in 1997 about the problem of disposing of used motor oil, the township instituted an oil recycling program. Ninety-five percent of the heat for the township offices now comes from recycled waste oil.

The list of recycled materials just keeps growing. Anti-freeze and residential fibers are now on the list. In 2003, 227,000 pounds of clothing and shoes were recycled. Computer components and lead-acid batteries have also joined the roster of things recycled in Algonquin Twp. Bob said he is gratified but no longer surprised by all the items that can be recycled. "There always seems to be another opportunity," he said.

For more information about the recycling program in Algonquin Twp., visit the Web site The headquarters for the Algonquin Township Road District is located in Crystal Lake in northeast Illinois, just 30 miles west of Lake Michigan. The town has about 24,500 residents. It goes without saying that Algonquin Twp. also is engaged in the mainstays of recycling, such as recovering glass, cans, magazines, cardboard, and newspapers.

The DuraTech model 3010 has made a great difference in the recycling of wood waste, said Bob. With its low maintenance and its capability to produce up to 120 cubic yards per hour with only one operator, the DuraTech model 3010 has proven to be a good option in a cost-conscious municipal setting.

A wet clutch drives the hammermill on the DuraTech model 3010 and so limits the amount of intervention required by an operator. The wet clutch has a push-button start and is self-adjusting. It is designed to be more or less maintenance free and delivers more horsepower to the mill than a conventional clutch. The DuraTech model 3010 has a 30-inch wide oscillating off-feed conveyor.

Recycling waste wood and other materials conserves natural resources as well as landfill space. Algonquin Twp. residents like the results. There are nice side benefits, too, including reduction in pollutants and energy use, which are highlighted on the Web site for the community’s program.

There are more than 55 certified miles of roadways in Algonquin Twp., which spans about 48 square miles. Some of the roadways are streets and cul-de-sacs. Signage, drainage, rights of way maintenance, patching and berm repairs are among the other responsibilities of the township road district.

Until he was elected Commissioner in 1993, Bob was an employee of the Algonquin Twp. Road District. He said he enjoys his work and the opportunities it affords to help the community. As for what he likes to do when he is not at work, he has been quite busy. "Right now," he said, "I don’t have any spare time."


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