Minnesota pallet company finds waste stream success with Rotochopper grinding system and Vecoplan pellet mill. Company seeks diversified strategy to locate new revenue streams and respond to market conditions.
Mitch Martin looks for opportunities. That’s how Martin got into the pallet business in the first place. He purchased a small Minneapolis pallet company in 1998 that was going under due to a fire. “I bought several accounts and some old equipment,” he quipped. He started with five employees, operating in an old 12,000 square foot building.
Today, Northland Pallet has become a major recycler in Minnesota and was recently included on the Interpal pallet plant tour. One of the key areas where Northland is a trend setter is its approach to turning wood pallet waste into value-added products, such as pellets. A key to its approach is the company’s grinding operation, which depends on a Rotochopper EC-366.
Mitch Martin, owner and president of Northland Pallet, said, “We upgraded to the current machine in 2016. We had maxed out the previous machine and wanted to start grinding more whole pallets. We figured if we went down that road, we wanted a larger machine so we had more capacity.”
In addition to the grinder, Northland installed a Rotochopper hammermill as part of its plans to produce wood pellets. Martin has no problem getting rid of his waste. One reason is the quality of the grind. Martin explained, “Honestly, in this area, everybody that gets our product says it’s the best product they get from pallet companies. The combination of the Rotochopper grinder and hammermill produces a consistent grind that is popular for horse bedding and works well with our pellet operation.”
Rotochopper Offers Top-Level Service and Reliability
Northland bought its first Rotochopper in 2005, a Rotochopper EC-166. The company was grinding lumber waste, scraps and some whole pallets. It moved to grinding larger pallets with the upgrade to the EC-366 model in 2016. Commenting on Rotochopper’s support, Martin said, “Rotochopper is great customer service-wise, and it certainly helps that they are located so close to us.”
The company opted for a Rotochopper hammermill because it works seamlessly with the grinder. Martin commented, “Coming out of our Rotochopper grinder, material goes directly through our hammermill. The hammermill and the grinders speak to one another. If there’s too much product in the hammermill, it’ll slow down the grinder. If it needs more product, it’ll ask for more.”
Depending on demand and supply, Northland can vary its product mix from animal bedding to pellets. A key advantage for Northland is its hammermill. This means that animal bedding coming from Northland is ready to go to the customer compared to normal pallet grind from other companies that must go through a secondary grinding process before shipping to customer locations.
Martin said, “We put in our hammermill because of the pellet operation. But it certainly has helped us secure large volume customers and higher prices for our animal bedding product.”
Another important step is employees monitoring what goes into the grinder and the hammermill for pellet production. Mark Wales, sales director for Northland Pallet, explained, “It’s extremely important that you’re making sure you get foreign objects out of material that goes into pellet production.” He added this extra step ensures better quality pellets for customers.