Member Spotlight: Hofeling Enterprises

Published March 26, 2021

This is part of a series of interviews with NRC members. The purpose is to provide insights into materials management programs and best practices of member municipalities, businesses, and service providers.

When Scott Hofeling started trimming trees in the ‘90s, he quickly discovered how many trees there are in Lincoln, and how much wood they produce in the trimming and removal process. It didn’t take long to become inundated with leftover trimmings; in his wife LeAnn’s words, “We couldn’t give the stuff away, and we weren’t going to landfill it!” They decided the most straightforward solution was to turn that wood waste into new products, and the recycling arm of Hofeling Enterprises, Inc., was born.

Hofeling Enterprises is a wood recycling yard and mulch manufacturer; we also take a 1,000-horsepower grinder to commercial jobsites for large-scale land-clearing uses. If you’ve ever taken Van Dorn Street out to Highway 77, you’ve driven past our yard! Just look for the gigantic piles of brush, pallets, and mulch. There are myriad ways to reuse and recycle the wood processed at our mulch yard: eco-dyed hardwood mulch is used by landscapers and garden centers; finely-ground dry wood material is used by farmers across the region for bedding in poultry barns; ethanol plants also use our wood waste as fuel.

Since 2019, we have tracked how much wood product is trucked out of our yard. In 2019 and 2020 combined, we delivered nearly 3,000 semi loads of product, or 240,000 cubic yards. For reference, one cubic yard of mulch is the same as 13.5 bags of mulch you’d get at the home improvement store, which means that in a year, we deliver the equivalent of 1.6 million bags of mulch! Plus, providing bulk, unbagged mulch for sale (both in our yard and through garden centers) means that we’re not adding to the plastic bag waste stream.

Hofeling connects to the community by taking part in various recycling events around town, like Lincoln Recycles Day; we are contracted with the city of Lincoln to grind leftover Christmas trees into pine mulch at sites around town. We also offer pallet recycling for many businesses in town and always accept wood waste from homeowners and arborists alike. In that vein, COVID has actually driven a rise in business – people are stuck at home and starting many more home improvement projects than they would otherwise, including landscaping and the like. Since we stock many of the local gardening centers with mulch, we saw a lot more demand this past year!

In the spring of 2020, we received a grant from the Nebraska Recycling Council, which enabled us to purchase an additional walking floor trailer for our fleet. With the addition of this trailer, through the months of May through October 2020, Hofeling Enterprises was able to increase our delivery volume from 57,740 cubic yards in the same time period in 2019 to 72,897 cubic yards – an increase of over 26%!

One of our dreams for the future is to help others divest from fossil fuels. One current working idea is to implement wood-burning heating and boiler systems, which would be powered by the thousands of city ash trees that will need to be removed as the Emerald Ash Borer beetle continues its devastating spread through the area. This ties into a frustration about our industry: long-term impacts can be predicted or anticipated, but it’s difficult and complicated to enact short-term changes that will adequately respond to those predictions.

With that being said, we at Hofeling Enterprises are pleased with the millions of yards of wood waste we’ve kept out of landfills and the ways that we continue to innovate in our field, with the help of forward-thinking organizations like the Nebraska Recycling Council!