PORTLAND – Morse Brothers, a family-owned company that makes bark mulch, has been purchased by a Portland company, which was attracted by the Auburn firm’s product and location.

M.B. Bark LLC of Portland bought the assets of Morse Brothers after the company began bankruptcy proceedings. M.B. Bark is a subsidiary of JWA Holdings LLC, which also operates Commercial Paving & Recycling Co.

According to M.B. Bark President John Adelman, the company plans to maintain the mulch making operation on Lewiston Junction Road and integrate it with the paving and recycling business in Scarborough.

“It’s good synergy for us,” said Adelman, adding that JWA Holdings is committed to the recovery and reuse of raw materials.

That philosophy fits with Auburn operation, where finished mulch is transported throughout the Northeast, primarily by truck. Adelman said it makes sense to fill the trailers of the returning trucks with waste materials from JWA Holdings’ recycling facility, then route them to biomass plants around the state.

“We want to play more and more in feeding those plants,” said Adelman. He specifically mentioned the Boralex plant in Stratton, as well as plants in Old Town and Portsmouth, N.H.

The Auburn site contains a 156-acre state-licensed facility for processing wood waste, including the manufacture of bark mulch. It produces more than 100,000 tons of bark mulch each year.

Adelman said about 60 percent of the raw material used in the mulch operation comes from Canada via rail. The proximity to the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line was another aspect that made the purchase of Morse Brothers so appealing.

“Those trains come down full and go home empty,” said Adelman, noting the potential to fill them with products destined for a Canadian market.

He said he expects to hire workers – perhaps as many as 30 or 40 – to bring the mulch operation back into full swing this spring. Morse Brothers has been in operation for 30 years, moving from a smaller site in Windham to Auburn in 2001.

CPRC operates a Gibson Road facility in Scarborough, as well as the Riverside recycling facility for the city of Portland.

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