As the owner of Bylands Nurseries Ltd., based in West Kelowna, B.C., in the Okanagan region, John Byland oversees 400 acres of plants, including perennials, fruit trees and evergreens that people use to landscape the outsides of their homes.
Such a large operation produces hundreds of tons of green waste every year. But unlike other nurseries or farms with ravines and other such areas where such waste can be dumped, Bylands had no place to dispose of its waste.
Instead, recalls Mr. Byland, "we were trucking our prunings, unsold plants, weeds and other material to the municipal landfill here in Kelowna. At the time, we just had to pay trucking costs so it was not that onerous a task."
However, from the mid-1990s onwards, the Kelowna municipality started to charge fairly significant tippage fees to discourage people from using landfill facilities. These increased every year to a current $40 per ton of waste.
"Since it was becoming increasingly expensive for us to dump our green waste, we had to think of an alternative," Mr. Byland says.
Bylands was started in 1954 by Mr. Byland's father, Adrian, an immigrant from the Netherlands, where horticulture had been in the family for hundreds of years.
After his father died 30 years ago, the younger Mr. Byland took over the business, gradually increasing its work force to 200 employees, creating a board of directors and shipping products to garden centres throughout Western Canada.
As an industry leader, Bylands has won three awards within the last three years: the BC Nursery Grower of the Year Award in 2010, the inaugural Canadian Nursery Grower of the Year Award in 2011, and the International Grower of the Year Award in 2012.
To overcome the mounting costs of disposing Bylands Nurseries' green waste at the municipal landfill, Mr. Byland decided to explore converting it into compost which he could then use to fertilize his fields.
He did a cost-benefit analysis, balancing the funds he would need to do the composting, including the mechanical necessities and labour, against the benefits, primarily the ridding of the landfill tippage fees.
In the end he thought the capital investment was one worth making, and started composting on a small scale around the year 2000, investing more significantly in the ensuing years.
After stockpiling Byland Nurseries' green waste, Mr. Byland and his team rented an industrial tub grinder at a cost of $450 an hour to break down all the organic matter into smaller particles. They then wind-rolled it before adding water and raising the temperature to 50 degrees Celsius for 15 days to pasteurize the compost.
Finally, the compost was run through a screening plant to emit all the large particles before being ready to nurture the company's fields as well as plants in the potting department.
Bylands Nurseries now produces about 18,300 metres of compost a year and has replaced peat moss formerly used in its potting mix with compost to save the cost of transporting moss from Alberta.
Mr. Byland and his team have also started a new revenue stream by bagging portions of the compost to sell to customers.
With operating costs of $120,000 a year to process the material, the compost program saves the company more than $400,000 a year in having to haul away material, pay for dumping or purchase similar product.
Along with overcoming the initial challenge of paying increasing landfill tippage fees, Mr. Byland found numerous additional benefits and opportunities for extra revenue.
One of the extra benefits Bylands saw was not only savings on fertilizer costs, but the compost proved even more nourishing than chemical fertilizer. Fields can now be planted with crops each year, instead of in a two- or three-year cycle, as they were previously.
"Being able to plant more frequently has gained us the equivalent of 40 acres of plant production every year," Mr. Byland says.
Mr. Byland also says that the compost has improved the quality of its soil, which is now yielding better trees and plants.
Bylands even found a way to help its community while adding another revenue stream. In addition to producing compost from its own green waste, it now also takes all the yard trimmings from the entire West Kelowna area, at half the cost of municipal landfill tippage fees.
"We've completely displaced those landfills, which the municipality is very pleased about from an environmental standpoint., " Mr. Bylands says. "And it's creating savings for local people, which is helping us build our brand in the community."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Jeff Kroeker is a lecturer in the accounting division at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.
This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.
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