When it comes to turning trees into mulch Patrick Geraty finds two companies are better than one
by Bill Newmann
Agricycle, Inc., a company with close ties to the holder of a lucrative city composting contract, is responsible for cutting down a large swath of St. Louis County’s dwindling woodlands in recent years, the Journal of Decomposition has learned.
Patrick T. Geraty of Kirkwood owns both Agricycle and St. Louis Composting, Inc., which took over the St. Louis Forestry Division’s municipal composting operation in 2009. Though incorporated separately, the two companies are in essence branches of the same operation.
St. Louis Composting, which has the higher profile of the pair, rakes in an estimated $12 million annually, according to the St. Louis Business Journal, processing more than 500 million cubic yards of municipal organic waste, including St. Louis city street trees. Meanwhile out in the burbs, Agricycle, the quieter sister company, gains its lucre by clear cutting more than 500 acres yearly for developers, according to an industry source.
Geraty founded St. Louis Composting in 1992, the same year that a new Missouri law banned yard waste from landfills. Contrary to its name, however, the company was incorporated in Illinois, and originally included a trio of corporate directors from the Chicago area. Three years later, Geraty incorporated Agricycle in Missouri. Both companies share the same address: 39 Old Elam Avenue, which is next to a landfill in Valley Park, a suburban town in southwest St. Louis County. Most of the companies’ other sites are located on or near former landfills.
Utilizing a fleet of mobile grinders and excavators, Agricycle hawks its wholesale tree-removal services to local, state and federal agencies, as well as private developers across the Midwest. Together the two arms of the operation work in tandem to secure contracts in the public and private sectors. In the end, it’s impossible to separate municipal “wood waste” from the other sources. The trees that end up in the wood chip piles come from far and wide.
Agricycle, for example, has cleared land at Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army base in southern Missouri. It also holds a contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation. St. Louis Composting, on the other hand, holds numerous contracts with municipalities, including the city of St. Louis.
On the industry side, Agricycle is hooked up with the SITE Improvement Association, a construction trade organization that employs lobbyist Terry Briggs, a former Metropolitan Sewer District lobbyist and spokesman. In addition, the company is plugged into the Missouri Forest Products Association, a proponent for the state’s logging industry.
Agricycle and St. Louis Composting also both use attorney Rebecca A. Kling as their registered agent, according to current reports filed with the Missouri Secretary of State. Kling is a law partner in the Clayton-based firm of Jenkins & Kling along with her husband Stephen L. Kling Jr., son of the late S. Lee Kling, an influential St. Louis banker and political powerbroker. Jenkins & Kling has also represented Agricycle in legal actions as recently as 2010.
In addition to sharing the same attorney, the two companies apparently also share equipment, according to a story that appeared in an industry publication. In the article, Geraty refers to the two companies interchangeably when discussing his business operations. In Geraty’s words, Agricycle is St. Louis Composting’s “offsite clearing division.” Geraty indicates that he shuffles tree grinders and associated machinery back and forth depending on the tasks at hand.
The close ties between the companies are even trumpeted at Agricycle’s website, which states: “Our sister company, St. Louis Composting, has a fleet consisting of 28 tractor trailers with walking floors ready and available to transport materials from job sites to nearby processing facilities.”
Geraty did not respond to a phone call placed to him on Monday.
In the beginning, St. Louis Composting’s directors included Chicagoans Peter and Caroline Repenning and David A. Wagner. The Repennings later formed Greencycle, a composting operation with locations in Indiana and Connecticut.
Under the contract with the Forestry Division, St. Louis Composting, leases the city-owned composting site near Hall Street for a mere $12,000 per year. In its proposed budget for 2010, Forestry earmarked $250,000 for its outsourced composting operation. The city contract also sets a specific amount that St. Louis Composting receives for each cubic yard of municipal waste it accepts. St. Louis Composting then turns around and charges up to $39 per cubic yard for its finished products.
St. Louis Composting operates several compost sites throughout the St. Louis Bi-State area including:
- 39 Old Elam Avenue, Valley Park
- 560 Terminal Row (the St. Louis Forestry Division site)
- 1294 Schaefer Driver, Maryland Heights
- 100 Franklin Road, Pacific
- 3521 Centreville Avenue, Belleville
- 13060 County Park Road, Florissant
Missouri’s forests continue their rapid decline along with St. Louis’ street-tree canopy due in part to the aggressive operations of Agricycle and St. Louis Composting. Together these tree-grinding Siamese twins form a combine that transforms trees into cash. As Geraty bragged: “We really have it down to a science at this point.”