BROWNSVILLE — Ever wonder what happens to the scrap lumber goes when they tear down or remodel a house? Or where they put all of that land-clearing debris when they build a new development? Or who the landscaper got his compost and top soil from when he redid your yard?
Well, wonder no more.
“Chipper” (a.k.a. Mark Williams) has been chipping wood since he was 16 or 17 years old, he said. Today, he is the father of four — the oldest being 14 — and he and his wife, Heather, own Williams Wood Waste Recycling, LLC.
“When I started, I mostly did on-site work for developments and land-clearing projects. I just kind of got tired of moving the stuff around from day-to-day and decided to make a home here,” Williams said.
“Here,” in this case, being about 10 acres of land located at 12139 Brownsville Highway.
“Right next to the Kitsap main sewage treatment plant,” he said.
The family-owned company is Central Kitsap’s major recycler of almost anything wood.
“We take everything from dimensional lumber, land-clearing debris, stumps and brush … from homeowners, [builders,] and landscapers,” he said. “The brush gets turned into different kinds of mulch that we make and sell back to the landscapers or to different people for soil amendments and top dressing. The ground-up scrap lumber and the large majority of the land-clearing debris gets turned into what’s called ‘hog fuel’ and goes to a couple of area paper mills.
“We also make topsoil, either from dirt that is hauled in from people needing to get rid of it, or along with the land-clearing debris that comes in with a lot of dirt on it … The dirt gets piled up — we let it sit for about a year or so — and as it sits it dries out and any organic material rots around inside of it. Then we screen it out and we make a couple of different types of soil: top soil, garden soil and our most popular, plain old straight-screened dirt,” he said.
The business is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They also open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month as a favor to homeowners.
On Aug. 14, Williams opened the gate for business at 8 a.m. and by 8:20 there already were trucks and trailers lined up waiting to dump their loads and his t-shirt was already grimy from working.
“When it comes to [wood recycling] businesses in Central Kitsap, we’re pretty much it,” he said, taking time to visit and answer questions during a break in the action. “Kitsap County has made the permitting process very difficult,” he explained. We opened in July of 2014, but it took us 10 years to get a permit from the county after we bought the property. There’s not a lot of people want to spend 10 years of their lives trying to get a permit to use a piece of property. Not to mention the regulations they put on you for wantin’ to do it, where you can do it and all the stipulations. We got our conditional use permit because we’re right next to the sewage treatment plant — a very undesirable location to build a house,” he said.
No one can visit the site without noticing that almost all of the equipment have large “CHIPPER” signs on them. And there’s a story behind that.
“I was given the nickname ‘Chipper,’ by Ron Ross when he heard what I did. He used to [secretly] go around putting decals on all my machines that said ‘CHIPPER.’ About a year after they started appearing, he gave me a decal and said, ‘Here’s a decal for the one you always park in your garage. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to get to it and put a sticker on it.”
What you can put a sticker on is how much wood material Williams recycles that would otherwise wind up in landfills or in the air as smoke.
“We were offering a solution to burning land-clearing debris,” he said.
“Last year, I believe we recycled close to 450 tons of waste,” he said. “Every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Last year we shipped the paper mills 160 loads of hog fuel at 32 tons a load. And that doesn’t include the yardage counts on the mulch. That’s probably approaching 7,000 to 8,000 yards a year of the different mulches we make that go out.”
The Williams are also environmentally conscious when it comes to their property.
“We have a total of just shy of 10 acres. We can only use 2.7 acres of that for the business,” he said. He explained that the land behind the flat plateau the business sits atop drops away into a valley to the west and is mostly wetlands.
“We have a filtration system for all of the ground water that runs off,” he said. “It collects the water and it goes through a kind of bioswale before the water leaves the site … There’s a filter up here on top and another one on the bottom of the hill. Some of it is in addition to what the county required. We put it in just to be sure everything’s okay,” said Williams.
At that point, two men drive up in a pickup. In addition to mulch, Williams also sells gravel “as a convenience to the customers,” and the men need a yard of it. Williams greets them with an easy smile, exchanges greetings and then jogs off to get the front loader.