Community composting

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

KPS Composting Services uses Doppstadt trommel screeners in East Sussex to keep its clients – not to mention its neighbours – happy. Geraldine Faulkner pays a visit to the green waste recycler, whose services span much more than its name might suggest

Good old-fashioned family values are the rule of thumb at KPS Composting Services’ site in Isfield, East Sussex. Part of the KPS empire, a family-run business established nearly 40 years ago by Paul Smyth, the parent company includes all aspects of tree care, fencing and landscaping services, along with landscaping products from its green waste recycling facility in Isfield and the other site at Pease Pottage.

“Paul and his wife, Hazel, along with their two sons, Danny and Jody, who are both directors, all work on a day-to-day basis in the office,” says Simon Reed, composting operations manager.

However, whereas the original landscaping business was started in the 1980s, KPS Composting Services was launched just over 20 years ago and began life as an offshoot of its parent company.

“The composting operation was started initially to help deal with KPS’s own green and woody waste generated by the tree care business,” says Reed. “The company has now grown to become one of the leading specialist composting companies in the UK. We accept material for recycling at our two Sussex sites in Isfield and Pease Pottage along with providing a mobile composting service. These materials are transformed into the KPS range of recycled landscaping products, including soil improver, green top soil, woodland mulch, premium pine bark and firewood logs.”

Site manager, Daryl Walker, picks up the story: “We use traditional open windrow composting and recycle all waste from our tree surgery and grounds maintenance works at our recycling and composting sites. All waste is either composted to make soil improver or used to make a range of other recycled gardening products, plus the timber from the tree work is sorted and seasoned for firewood logs.”

Keeping the neighbours sweet

Comprising nine acres, the Isfield site is surrounded by glorious farmland in the East Sussex South Downs. “The company controls some of the fields around the site with local farmers and walkers having access, with whom we have a good working relationship along with the local community,” adds Reed.

Maintaining cordial relations with the operation’s immediate neighbours is particularly important as KPS Composting Services operates some hefty bits of kit, some of which have the potential to be quite noisy. As well as the thunder of the shredders, KPS operates four Doppstadt trommel screeners at Isfield which process the matured compost and contribute a significant role in turning it into PAS100-accredited compost that is sold to landscapers, soil blenders as well as domestic clients.

Walker again: “We process around 50,000 tonnes of green waste a year here at Isfield. We have been using Doppstadt trommel screeners since we started the composting operation in 1995. Doppstadt was around in the mid-1990s when frankly there wasn’t a great deal of choice of compost recycling machines at the time. As the Germans have been in recycling for longer than us, we find their machines are more reliable. Essentially, Doppstadt is the market leader when it comes to dealing with the final processing of green waste.”

The two versions of Doppstadt trommel screens currently in use at KPS’s site in Isfield are the SM 518 and SM 620.

“As well as offering clients a mobile shredding service, we also provide a fully operated trommel screen option on a self-hire basis,” adds Reed. “Short or long-term hire are offered on our Doppstadt trommel screens. We deliver the plant to clients’ site and provide set-up and training on the machines.”

Along with green waste, the team at Isfield also deals with around 5,000 tpa of wood waste (“This is currently our full capacity for this site,” comments the composting operations manager). The shredded wood waste is used to fuel the biomass boiler at the company’s

head office that supplies heat to its local workshops, four neighbouring homes and 16 industrial units.

“It’s a good way of keeping neighbours happy,” smiles Walker, who grew up in the area and boasts a local farming background. “If we need to borrow a tractor from a farmer, I can just pick up the phone and speak to someone local.”

Contacts such as these stand the composting operation in good stead when it comes to community relations.

“We support local residents as much as we can; whether it’s collecting money for bonfire night, selling local people bags of compost at a discounted rate, giving the money back to the community to support the firework display or clearing the roads when there’s snow. We also take all the green waste off the village for free to save them having to take it to the local tip,” says Reed before adding: “Our operating hours are between 7am and 6pm. While we shut the gates to vehicles delivering green or wood waste at 5pm, we are aware that people are keen to enjoy their gardens. They don’t want to hear a machine chuntering away while they’re trying to enjoy their G&Ts on the patio.”

Nor does the company’s efforts to liaise with the local community stop there.

“When we first introduced the wood waste to the site, we found the location wasn’t working as local residents complained about the noise. So we called in the villagers, asked them where they would like it sited and restructured the whole site to suit.

“We also changed the reversing bleepers on our wheel loaders so people can’t hear them in the garden,” notes Reed.

Also, should the wind get up (one of a composting site’s worst natural enemies), the entire KPS staff can get involved in litter control so that it doesn’t end up in residents’ gardens or the countryside.

“When it’s windy, anyone can be seen picking litter, even the MD.”

Continued support

In an industry where good relations between clients and machine manufacturers play a crucial role, the Blue Group is keenly aware of the long-standing relationship with clients like KPS.

“KPS is a very forward-thinking business who believes in purchasing the best equipment to ensure the efficient and effective running of their various sites. To date they have purchased a number of Doppstadt trommels from us. Mechanically they are very knowledgeable guys and clearly see the benefit of purchasing equipment from the Blue Group. We fully appreciate the business we get from KPS and look to reciprocate by offering our continued support throughout the life of the machine,” says Matt Scott, Blue London account manager.

So while relations with the Blue Group, which supplies KPS Composting Services with trommel screeners and other equipment, are good (“I get on really well with Matt. He is always at the end of the telephone and gets back to you as soon as he can,” comments Walker), machine suppliers should not fall into the trap of taking the KPS team’s use of their kit for granted. “I would like to flick the composting process on its head,” warns Walker with a crafty sparkle in his eye.

“I don’t see why we can’t have one machine to generate two or three different kinds of product. I’ve always been machinery-oriented and enjoy studying the way machines process materials. I like experimenting with other bits of kit and looking at other operating systems. After all, it’s my brief to find the best cost-effective way of doing things, which brings its own environmental benefits such as using less fuel and creating less carbon emissions,” adds the site manager.

Throwing down the gauntlet

It is no secret within KPS that when the site manager is set a daunting challenge, he never hesitates to find a solution, even if it takes a couple of weeks.

When RWW visited the Isfield site, Walker was in the process of giving up smoking.

“The worst thing anyone can say to me is ‘you can’t do it’,” he explains, puffing away at his e-cigarette. “I started smoking at the age of 12 and I’m 41 years old now, but I’ve not smoked a ‘proper’ cigarette for five days and I’m determined to keep going.”

So manufacturers of composting machines should keep on their toes.

“We’re always looking at changing the way things happen,” states the site manager. “New machines are always coming out. If someone comes along offering us a trial period with a new piece of kit, we say bring it along; however, we find that while it might be good for sand and shingle, it doesn’t necessarily work with green waste.”

Doppstadt SM 620

From domestic to construction waste, from plastic, glass and paper to biomass, sand and gravel, the SM 620 comfortably processes all material being dispatched into the 5m³ large feeding hopper. By default, the SM 620 K is configured for two-fraction screening, but the machine can produce a third fraction by means of coarse grating, vibrating screen or star screen, and a fourth by applying a windsifter to the rear conveyor. The SM 620 Plus is widely regarded as the epitome of flexibility, according to the Blue Group. Changing from trommel to star screen mode merely takes some 45 minutes.

Doppstadt SM 518

The Doppstadt 518 trommel is powered by a DEUTZ TCD 2.9 L4 engine and offers up to 55kW of power. According to the Blue Group, the machine is equally suitable for compost, earth, light construction waste as well as wood, biomass, sand and gravel. One of the key advantages of the SM 518 is the large 5m3 hopper with a loading height of just 2.8m for improved loader visibility. The front conveyor is 5.5m in length, offering 3.5m drop-off height. By default, the SM 518 Plus is configured for two-fraction screening, but the machine is said to be able to produce up to five fractions in a single process with the help of a large particles separation unit, the air classifier and magnets, all of which are available separately.


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