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pallet-shredder
The pallet shredder at the Boston Market Terminal. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Market Terminal)

Dana Hayes, general manager of the Boston Market Terminal in Everett, MA, said that wooden pallets are the primary concern when it comes to waste at the market.

“We are entirely in-house when it comes to clearing rubbish and cleaning the market,” said Mr. Hayes. “We have to clean daily because the market creates a lot of debris. About 10 years ago, we had a pallet shredder installed. It pulls out nails on a magnetic roller and shreds the wood.”

The shredded wood has been used in various ways over the past decade, including use as biomass that is burned to provide electricity to greenhouses. It also has been made into pressed wood for wooden products.

“The company that is currently taking the shredded wood is regrinding it and coloring it to sell as landscape mulch,” said Mr. Hayes. “Besides being able to recycle the huge amount of wood that is discarded at the terminal, we’re able to save the tremendous amount of money that it would cost to put the wood into our dumpsters and have it hauled away.”

At one end of the market’s wood-recycling effort is the environmental satisfaction, and at the other end is the financial savings it has enjoyed since installing the shredder.

“We are picking up about 100 wood pallets each day that cannot be reused because they are broken, and on Fridays we pick up as many as 150,” Mr. Hayes said. “Approximately 150 pallets can be ground into seven cubic yards of shredded wood, which is equivalent to about seven stacks of 20 pallets each. The bottom line is that it’s a tremendous amount of volume and we have limited space on the market property.”

Prior to installing the shredder, the market used a rubbish contractor that charged it over $3,000 per week to come twice each week. And the contractor charged extra if it had to pick up pallets that had been left on the docks. Mr. Hayes said that it was expensive and the company didn’t do a good job.

“Today, we pay $84 a ton for trash removal, $125 for the dump-and-return service and a monthly dumpster-rental charge,” he said. “But by taking wood out of the equation, we’ve reduced our trash by about 50 percent. And we’re saving even more by having our own in-house staff do the cleaning. There is also that driving factor of how we’re reducing our carbon footprint by not needing trucks that burn fuel and tear up roads that have to be repaired, using even more fossil fuel­s­­­­ or by contributing to landfills.”

About one year ago, the Boston Market Terminal engaged in yet another program with a recycling company. Market tenants separate their cardboard, carton wrap and covers, plastic straps, plastic pallet and even miscellaneous metal. The recycling company hauls the materials to a center where a machine further separates them. Cardboard and metals are recycled, and plastic is sold as raw product. This further reduces the amount of waste tonnage the market must pay to have removed as trash.

In the future, the market also may be turning its fresh-produce waste into useable compost.

“The company that currently picks up our trash has a composting machine that turns the waste into compost in just a couple of days,” said Mr. Hayes. “Compost is highly desired by farmers and even backyard gardeners. The problem with biomass, however, is that it has to be diligently separated from all packaging materials. And the market does not produce a predictable amount of this waste. We may have huge amounts in one week but then very little the next week. We will continue to consider how beneficial this would be for us.”

The wood shredder cost about $100,000 to purchase and install, but it has paid for itself several times over.

“We have modified the shredder with a chute at the top that prevents the chips from blowing around if it’s windy,” he explained. “And we’ve put a sliding door on the top so people cannot throw other materials into it. Despite the added expenses, it continues to pay for itself, and everyone here agrees that we’re doing something really good for the environment.”