When tropical storm Isaias whipped across Shelter Island last month with wind gusts up to 65 mph, it knocked down numerous trees and large and small branches everywhere.
By the time Highway Department crews finished cleaning up, they had accumulated 600 tons of debris, which was added to what was collected so far this year by the town or dropped off by homeowners, contractors and landscapers.
The good news is that all of this raw material gets converted to mulch and topsoil at the Recycling Center. In 2019, the Center received 2,500 tons of brush and 600 tons of tree stumps and branches. The stumps were split and then put through a grinder before being combined with the brush to create up to 7,000 cubic yards of mulch.
The Center makes three grades of mulch: fine, coarse and regular, which is a combination of fine and coarse. About 3,500 cubic yards of the mulch was sold to contractors, landscapers, and homeowners. Residual mulch was trucked off the Island in exchange for recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), which is sold to the public or used for town projects.
In order to make topsoil, the Center used 10,000 cubic yards of leaves last year. The leaves were ground, reducing the volume by half, and then combined with 1,000 tons of wood chips to add bulk. Because every six to seven years there’s a surplus of topsoil, the Highway Department purchased a spreader this year to distribute 1,500 cubic yards on town properties like Dickerson Park and the Goat Hill golf course and on the trails at town preserves.
The process of converting all of this vegetation to usable compost takes about a year. The piles are monitored weekly and get turned when the temperature reaches 140 degrees. The topsoil is tested every six months for volatile compounds.
Mulch and topsoil are available to homeowners for free at the Recycling Center as well for purchase and home delivery.
Contributions to this article were made by the Green Options Committee and the Town’s Department of Public Works.