First we can look at minimising waste by thinking long term, recognising the implications of our actions and planning ahead. At the onset of a project we can consider how future waste might be minimised by design, plant selection and by ensuring good survival rates. We can look at low-maintenance varieties. We can care for plants and trees today to reduce losses tomorrow.
However, this is horticulture and there are always plants to be cut back, trees to make safe and, at the end of the season, there will always be bedding plants to strip out. This is the waste — this is our problem. Or is it? Perhaps we should say these are the “by products” — this is our opportunity.
By choosing the right kit to deal with the “waste”, timber and brushwood can be turned into woodchips and used as mulches, surfacing, animal litter or heating fuel, while shredded green material can be composted for recycling into the soil of future planting schemes.
The development of woodchippers and shredders has been driven by need and there is an extensive choice of machinery for handling timber, brushwood, soft prunings and even expired bedding plants. But choosing the right machine may not be straightforward. There are many factors to take into account when selecting a chipper or shredder. Consider the types and volumes of materials you are most likely to process and where you expect to process them.
The materials to be processed will determine whether you need a chipper or a shredder. The volumes to be processed will indicate the most appropriate size. Brambles, soft prunings and other materials contaminated with soil and stones should go through shredders. For timber and woody materials, look at woodchippers and match the power and capacity of the kit to the size of the material you will be processing.
There are combination machines — a chipper and shredder in one unit — and these may be useful where more than one type of material is expected. For really large quantities of mixed materials there is always the option of a tub grinder. However, the price of these means it is usually best to rent one when required. The machine’s throughput is important and should be matched to the volume of material generated.
Now consider where the material is to be processed. Does the chipper or shredder need to be mobile? If so, how will it be moved? The rising cost of transport means contractors are increasingly chipping or shredding on site as a way of reducing volumes of materials being carted away. In some cases, the processed material can be left on site.
On country estates, in woodland or large gardens, it may be possible to use equipment powered by a tractor power-take-off. That option will reduce purchase costs but for mobile crews working in urban areas, the need is more likely to be for a self-powered unit that can be towed on the road and around the site by a Land Rover or pick-up.
Where the equipment is to be moved on the road, it is essential that the chipper or shredder is suited to the towing vehicle in terms of weight and roadworthiness, and is sufficiently manoeuvrable that it can be positioned exactly where it is required to work.
You should also consider the uses of the processed material. Will there be a market for the resulting chips or compost? Or will the recycled material be used within your own business activities? Either way, you should think about the chipping or shredding mechanism and the screening options.
Some extra features could prove useful, depending on the material being processed, the frequency and duration of use, and the sites being worked. For instance, when working in confined spaces or on a roadside, it is handy to be able to swivel the discharge chute to a direction that is convenient and safe for the catchment vehicle, trailer or skip.
Health and safety is paramount with all machinery, and operator training for chippers and shredders is a must. Make sure the machine has appropriate standards markings and consider aspects such as loading height to avoid back strain. Look at the unit’s strength of construction, ease of use and maintenance. Also, don’t forget to ask about training, warranties and back-up services, and availability and cost of spare parts.
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