May 2006


A Closer Look E-mail the author

Rainier Wood Recyclers
Tony Bennett, President
Kent, Washington • 253-630-3665

Rainier Wood Recyclers was incorporated in 1986 and since then has become one of the nation’s largest wood recyclers, with an estimated production of 280,000 tons in 2006. And all that with about 40 employees.

Their core business is grinding land clearing debris and clean urban wood waste, which includes pallets, crates, and construction waste. They also focus heavily on finding productive uses for the chips.

Tony Bennett, company president, said that Rainier “knows how to find markets for our product. For example, last year we started making playground chips for a company out of Pennsylvania. That’s one of our more value-added uses.”

The market for the chips varies by season as well as industry demand, but averages 30 to 45 percent landscape products, 30 to 45 percent industrial fuel, and 20 to 35 percent for pulp to make cardboard.

Bennett said that Rainier tries to stay on the cutting edge as far as new markets and this year they started supplying chips to Boise Cascade for feedstock which is used to produce cardboard. He explained that this market is “much higher up the value chain than using chips for something like daily cover at a landfill.”

Another partnership with Boise Cascade was the production of a “wood chunk” product to be used in siding manufacture. Rainer had to develop a process that would result in chips of a very specific size, made entirely from urban wood waste, with no particleboard.

Bennett added, “I’m not sure if it’s cutting edge, but folks are always interested that one of our clients is Emerald Downs, the horseracing track in our area.” The track uses Rainier’s chips “in the horse arenas and in the hot walker areas.” The wood chips are long-lasting, produce little dust, and are easily maintained.

Besides buying from public entities including the City of Seattle and Washington State Department of Transportation, they also buy from private companies such as Waste Management and real estate developers.

As a service to the community, Rainier accepts small drop-off loads of wood waste from homeowners. After Christmas each year, they work with local Boy Scouts on a Christmas tree recycling benefit, and are ready and willing to work with any government agencies on wood recycling projects.

In 2003, after a huge local windstorm, Rainier gained local fame when they opened all of their facilities for free drop-off of wood storm debris. When local news stations carried the story, Rainier got nearly 7,000 cubic yards of wood in a single day.

Rainier has three processing sites in Washington state, which includes one indoor facility in Auburn. That facility, formerly a concrete pipe factory, is now a “wood processing factory” designed for manufacturing the wood chunks for Boise Cascade.

Along with the permanent sites, Rainier has six mobile grinders for onsite work at client locations. Bennett said, “We can chip on a customer’s construction site with mobile equipment or source wood to bring into our indoor processing facility.”

When asked what he enjoyed most of the business, Bennett said, “Like most recyclers, we get a kick out of finding uses for things people used to throw away.” As for the personal component, he added, “We’re a family business, so working with great folks makes it fun – and frankly is one of the keys to minimal staff turnover.”

Bennett said that his biggest challenge is managing the business’s growth. The company is always looking at new ventures. “Like any successful business we must strategically select opportunities that compliment our core business, understand where the economy is headed, and be ready to meet market needs.”


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