Ask a Question forum: Mulch from a big box store.

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Name: Robert Hasskamp
Nashville, Indiana
roberthassk
Mar 24, 2018 10:28 AM CST
or I recently purchased some mulch from a big box home improvement store that those of us in the Midwest are all familiar with. As I started to spread this mulch in my garden to protect some plants that were coming up too early, I noticed pieces of plywood, particle board, OSB (oriented strand board) and chips with paint on one surface. Knowing that construction debris contains formaldehyde based glues and potential lead based paints, I reached out to the big box store corporate custom service. After pressing the topic with corporate customer service I receive a note from the associate garden supply buyer for the company and he said "sometimes a pallet will make its way into mulch products." Several days later it rained, washing some of the dirt from the mulch I laid down. Even more pieces of manufactured wood products were visible, along with electrical tape, plastic and other unnatural debris. I researched the Ohio State Administrative code ( the state that the mulch was processed in) and found that only clean wood can be used in mulch products. Chapter 560 of the Ohio code defined clean wood clearly as, wood free of adhesives, coatings and paint products. I reached out to the Ohio EPA and their representative stated they did not have the authority to inspect this processor. I reached out to the Ohio Attorney General's office and they passed me to the Ohio BBB for consumer complaints. The Better Business Bureau (a non-profit with no real authority) sent a complaint to the mulch processor, which in turn sent an apology to me. My question is who has the authority to inspect and regulate mulch and soil producers to insure consumers are not contaminating their gardens with chemicals that are dangerous if ingested? Clearly Ohio has a law on the books to insure unsafe debris does not end up in what is suppose to be a clean wood product.
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 24, 2018 10:41 AM CST
What did the bag say it contained? When you saw all that trash, why didn't you stop spreading and take it back? It sounds like hazardous waste to me. It looks like the stuff the city shreds and gives away for free.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Mar 24, 2018 10:44 AM CST
Well that's a bum deal, particularly since no one seems interested in rectifying the problem. I'm never quite sure what an ombudsman does, but that might be another avenue to check into. I hope you continue to pursue this, it is just wrong.

Meanwhile, on a practical note: Do you have a local facility that sells bulk mulch, dirt, etc.? That may be a better option than your non-responsive big box. When I was using a compost-mulch blend, I bought it by the dump truck load which was more cost effective than buying it by the bag (plus no packaging to dispose of). One needs to either have a spot to store that much (as I do, tucked behind the basketball court), or (as my neighbor does) lay down a tarp in the driveway and just power through spreading it into the gardens to reclaim your parking space. Another tactic I've taken is to buy a pickup load (1-2 yards) and just keep it in the back of the truck until it's been spread.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Robert Hasskamp
Nashville, Indiana
roberthassk
Mar 24, 2018 10:50 AM CST
Initially only a couple pieces of the manufactured wood products and plastic were visible as I spread the mulch. Each time it has rained, dirt has been washed from the mulch and the trash mixed in becomes more evident. I just would like to figure out who enforces the laws that are on the books to regulate the mulch producers so people across the Midwest are not spreading this trash on their gardens and landscape this spring.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Mar 24, 2018 3:52 PM CST
If it is just one bag, crap happens; if you bought more than one bag, put part of one in a wheelbarrow and shake the wheel barrow .
Nasty crap should come to the surface.
Put it back in a bag and take it back to the store.
Open the bag and show them the crap inside.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
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Shadegardener
Mar 24, 2018 5:22 PM CST
Robert - yeaaah - that's why I won't buy mulch unless it's certified in some manner.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Mar 24, 2018 5:24 PM CST
frustrating, certainly- but it goes to show laws are only as good as the enforcement. Maybe the mulch processor yard deals with various wood waste, and someone got sloppy? All you can do it seems is go back to the seller. I am surprised if they wouldn't refund for the bag(s).
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Name: David Tillyer
New York City
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BigAppleRoseGuy
Mar 25, 2018 9:08 AM CST
[quote="roberthassk"]or I recently purchased some mulch from a big box home improvement store that those of us in the Midwest are all familiar with. As I started to spread this mulch in my garden to protect some plants that were coming up too early, I noticed pieces of plywood, particle board, OSB (oriented strand board) and chips with paint on one surface. I reached out to the Ohio Attorney General's office and they passed me to the Ohio BBB for consumer complaints. The Better Business Bureau (a non-profit with no real authority) sent a complaint to the mulch processor, which in turn sent an apology to me. My question is who has the authority to inspect and regulate mulch and soil producers to insure consumers are not contaminating their gardens with chemicals that are dangerous if ingested?
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Robert. Thanks for following up with these people. I think you would be doing this group a favor if you would give us the name of the big box. Yes, some of us can guess. And, they probably all do this. However, we need to know who is pulling a fast one. David



Name: Robert Hasskamp
Nashville, Indiana
roberthassk
Mar 25, 2018 10:23 AM CST
David-- Thanks for your note... I've chosen not to name the Big Box store as most large companies have bots that search the social media for customer comments and I'd like to avoid a legal confrontation with the billionaire owner. This particular Big Box is privately owned, operates approximately 280 stores with largest operations in MN, WI, IL, IN, IA, and OH. There in-store public address marketing jingle is repetitiously tiring. The company logo claims, "Dedicated to Service and Quality". Clearly no one in their organization has reviewed the quality of their mulch. My real goal here is two fold... get this crap out of the environment and insure people are aware of the deceiving marketing some manufacturers with undertake in the name of a buck. The old adage holds true, "Buyer beware." It's important for us to all remember that nothing really matters if we no longer have a habitable planet to live on.
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Mar 25, 2018 10:29 AM CST
Hi Robert,

Call your local TV station that does investigative reporting and get them on it.
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. "

Abraham Lincoln
Name: Robert Hasskamp
Nashville, Indiana
roberthassk
Mar 25, 2018 1:25 PM CST
That's on my list... Good thought! We should take advantage of our media outlets more frequently. This weekend I reached out the Ohio Governor Kasich's office, asking that he address this topic with his EPA Director and Attorney General. We all know our government is dealing with some big issues each day, but these problems that are smaller have a tendency to morph into bigger long term issues. The Ohio State Legislature had the foresight to see the need to define what mulch was suppose to be, yet the enforcement arm is letting producers run without oversight and put garbage like construction debris into mulch. My trash handler will not accept construction debris at the curb. There's a reason you need to get a construction dumpster. That debris is suppose to be placed in a segregated disposal site. It infuriates me that mulch potentially containing formaldehyde, fire retardants or lead could und up on a playground or someone's vegetable garden.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Mar 25, 2018 1:38 PM CST
roberthassk said:Initially only a couple pieces of the manufactured wood products and plastic were visible as I spread the mulch. Each time it has rained, dirt has been washed from the mulch and the trash mixed in becomes more evident. I just would like to figure out who enforces the laws that are on the books to regulate the mulch producers so people across the Midwest are not spreading this trash on their gardens and landscape this spring.

No one enforces that actually.
My home town mulches the debris that people put in the garden debris containers that are free and picked up every two weeks.
What goes in there is NOT SORTED. They used to give it away but found out they can sell it. Knowing what is in there for several reasons I will never buy that brand.
Having worked for one landscaping firm that chipped their own scrap wood, lumber and and possible items such as OSB, pywood etc. were occasionally in the pile rarely did any one take the time to pull out as the big kahuna would most likely say chip it, we do not have to to start sorting this crap.
You get what you pay for , even in this day and age still pretty much means what it says.

Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Mar 26, 2018 2:06 AM CST
roberthassk said:or I recently purchased some mulch from a big box home improvement store that those of us in the Midwest are all familiar with. As I started to spread this mulch in my garden to protect some plants that were coming up too early, I noticed pieces of plywood, particle board, OSB (oriented strand board) and chips with paint on one surface. Knowing that construction debris contains formaldehyde based glues and potential lead based paints, I reached out to the big box store corporate custom service. After pressing the topic with corporate customer service I receive a note from the associate garden supply buyer for the company and he said "sometimes a pallet will make its way into mulch products." Several days later it rained, washing some of the dirt from the mulch I laid down. Even more pieces of manufactured wood products were visible, along with electrical tape, plastic and other unnatural debris. I researched the Ohio State Administrative code ( the state that the mulch was processed in) and found that only clean wood can be used in mulch products. Chapter 560 of the Ohio code defined clean wood clearly as, wood free of adhesives, coatings and paint products. I reached out to the Ohio EPA and their representative stated they did not have the authority to inspect this processor. I reached out to the Ohio Attorney General's office and they passed me to the Ohio BBB for consumer complaints. The Better Business Bureau (a non-profit with no real authority) sent a complaint to the mulch processor, which in turn sent an apology to me. My question is who has the authority to inspect and regulate mulch and soil producers to insure consumers are not contaminating their gardens with chemicals that are dangerous if ingested? Clearly Ohio has a law on the books to insure unsafe debris does not end up in what is suppose to be a clean wood product.
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Don't buy that stuff. It is never good.

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