Yard wastes are the stuff that great compost and mulch is made of. To these, you can add the vegetable wastes from your kitchen. Chipper/shredders not only make materials compost faster, they reduce the volume by up to 10 times.
The chipper/shredder was once a power tool only of interest to people with large properties or serious gardeners who like to cook up a batch of compost now and then.
But now the landfill problem has suburban homeowners looking at chipper/shredders and their evolutionary cousin, the chipper vacuum.
The chipper-vac is the first truly new piece of power equipment to come along in years. Looking something like a lawnmower with a chute attached to it (or a mechanical aardvark), it is used in three ways:
*Pushed around the yard like a lawn mower, it sucks up leaves and chops them into an attached bag. Chopped leaves break down into compost much faster that whole ones.
*The side chute is an entry point for chipping branches of up to three inches in diameter. These chips are good mulch around landscape plants.
*An optional hose attachment sucks leaves and wastes out from under bushes and along walls and hedges where a mower can't be pushed.
A wide range of chipper/shredders is available for different size jobs, ranging from electric units for the small yard to large gasoline-powered ones that will chomp up a brick and still keep ticking.
Most are units on wheels that stand upright to allow material to be fed into the top, although at least one model has a funnel that rests on the ground and allows leaves to be raked in.
With the pressure on America's landfills, chipper/shredders may soon find their place in the garage next to the lawn mower as the power equipment almost everyone needs to own.
Article published on April 21, 2005.