Almost every mulch producer has considered coloring their mulch in hopes of maximizing profits or to find an additional outlet for their finished product. It seems like an easy process; add colorant and out comes mulch every color of the rainbow. To be honest, coloring mulch is not difficult; however, there are some details that you may not have considered.
Do you know that you need approximately 8-18 gallons of water to make one yard of mulch??
If you want to process 100 yards per hour, you will need roughly 800-1,800 gallons per hour. The amount of moisture in your wood will determine the amount of water you need, but having a reliable, clean water source is extremely important as relying on public water can be extremely expensive.
Do you know colorants come in three different forms??
Most consumers are familiar with liquid colorant, but colorant also comes in powder and in granular forms. You must know which is best for your coloring needs.
- Powder Colorant: This is normally used for coloring concrete, stucco, etc. The only time powder is used to color mulch is when bulk powder colorant is manually poured on a finished mulch pile and mixed manually. This is very labor intensive and messy. It is however the least expensive way to color mulch and no colorizing equipment is needed. The finished product may not be as consistent with this process.
- Granular Colorant: Granular colorant is different from Powder as it is pelletized and flows easily. This granular colorant is dispensed dry either into a wood grinder or trommel screen and water is added by means of spray bars. The advantage of this system is that you are paying freight for only the pigment and not water.
- Liquid Colorant: Liquid colorant comes in a concentrate and is diluted with water by means of Colorizer Equipment and then dispersed via spray bars on a wood grinder or trommel screen, or is added to a tub style colorizer equipped with screw/pugmill paddles in the tub. This is the most popular colorant form.
Do you know how much colorant costs per one yard of mulch??
That depends on the color you want. I must preface that lighter colors like Red, Gold, Blue, etc. must have lighter color wood to make a quality colored mulch. Many use dimensional lumber waste and dried pallets for these colors. Yard waste can be used for darker colors like dark brown and black.
- Red Mulch: Requires approximately 4-5 pounds of colorant per yard: $3.20 - $5.00 per yard for colorant.
- Brown Mulch: Requires approximately 3 pounds of colorant per yard: $2.30 - $3.00 per yard for colorant.
- Black Mulch: Requires approximately 1-2 pounds of colorant per yard: $.80 - $1.80 per yard for colorant.
Let’s Do the Math: Cost to Grind Wood + Cost of Water (plus electricity for pump) + Cost of Colorant + Cost of Raw Material = Cost of Colored Mulch
Do you know how much to sell colored mulch for??
Every market is different. Obviously, those located in or around major cities will be able to sell for more money than those in rural areas. Wholesale pricing has been seen as low as $8-$11 per yard and retail at $35-$50 per yard.
What is the best type of coloring equipment?
- Option 1: Color in Grinder: These customers typically do a primary grind first and then color on the secondary grind. This process allows the customers to handle the material the least amount. This is a good option.
- Option 2: Color in Tub Style Machine: This process has a tub full of colorant as the water and the ground material is fed into the tub. Paddles and screws then pull the material out. This is my least favorite system as colored mulch comes out very wet and takes considerably longer to cure.
- Option 3: Color in a Trommel Screen: A trommel screen gives the owner the option to remove some of the fines before coloring. We all know that the fines suck up the colorant so if we remove 20% of those fines, our material will require less colorant. Though I want to emphasize, do not remove all of the fines or your finished material will not look as nice. Besides pulling out some fines, a second advantage of coloring through a trommel is that the material is not saturated with water so it is dryer once colored. This means curing times are cut in half. The last advantage is that the trommel can also be used as a compost or topsoil screen by simply changing the screen from a solid drum to screen mesh, or by removing the plastic wrapping which keeps the liquid from falling through the screen. This is the recommended option.
Regardless of which colorant or process used to color, coloring mulch allows for a more profitable alternative to ground wood.