Many people associate the arrival of spring with the familiar odor of mulch being laid down on properties across the Commonwealth and elsewhere. BUYER BEWARE!!! Mulch that is assumed to be bark mulch is actually waste wood products, deceptively marketed as bark mulch. Some of you may remember excelsior as the slender, curved wood shavings used before Styrofoam for packing fragile items. Most of us will recall the movie “A Christmas Story” that features a crate with that special lamp buried in excelsior.

Traditionally, mulch was known as “bark mulch” which is the moistened and processed bark of timber products. Recently, there has been a proliferation of industrial mulch operations which use dyed and processed waste wood products, such as wood pallets and construction waste, to make “mulch.” The resulting product is finer, drier, and therefore far more ignitable.
This “mulch” is creating serious fire hazards at single family homes and large residential complexes. Several destructive fires have displaced folks and destroyed everything they owned but the clothes on their backs. The Commonwealth recognized the inherent danger of mulch, and its traditional application directly up against the exterior of buildings. This resulted in the legislature promulgating new regulation 527 C.M.R 1.00 Section 10.14.10.4, which prohibits the application of mulch within 18 inches of a combustible building exterior such as wood or vinyl.

There are hundreds of small and large mulch fires every year. Single family homeowners and especially residential complexes and their landscape companies should be cognizant of the dangers of using dyed and processed waste wood products as mulch on the premises. Even providing cigarette disposal receptacles on the property is no guarantee to prevent a fire.
Consumers that are buying “mulch” should know what they are purchasing. Bark mulch is less available and often more expensive to the alternative mulches marketed. This law firm is investigating the marketing of “mulch” products. Contact our office to evaluate whether you may have a potential claim.