It's the ninth year of the city's successful mulch program, which turns residential yard waste into fresh organic material suitable for gardens, landscaping and erosion control.
More than 100,550 tons of it has been distributed since the start.
Here's how it works: The city's Public Works Department collects tree limbs, trunks, bushes and other yard clippings left at residents' curbs and hauls it to its mulching site on North Commerce Street.
Then, twice annually - in the spring and in the fall - it contracts with a professional chipping service to grind the debris into mulch. That process launched again Monday, with Ike Livingston of Environmental Grinding Services manning the voracious tub grinder.
Livingston plucks piles of awaiting debris with a machine claw and drops it in the grinder, which resembles a giant mixing bowl. The grinder spits chips, limbs and sometimes entire root balls 20-30 feet into the air as it devours its offering, most of which ends up in a nice pile.
The pile currently awaiting the machine will take an estimated three weeks, at 10 hours a day, to grind, Livingston said. That's about 6,000 tons. It'll be added to the existing mulch from the previous grind, in October.
The city then opens the site to the public, distributing mulch most of the year. Tupelo also uses the material on all municipal flower beds and landscaping, said Larry Walker of the Public Works Department.
The program launched with a $50,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said MDEQ spokesman Robbie Wilbur. Since then, funding has come from a $3.51 monthly fee automatically tacked onto residential garbage collection bills, which is collected by Tupelo Water amp& Light.
"As with any service, there is an annual cost to the citizens," said Public Works Director Sid Russell.
The amount of mulch depends on how much brush and yard debris residents toss. The worse the weather, the more mulch the city gets. The average annual tonnage is about 12,500.
Free mulch is available from the municipal site from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, with a break between noon and 12:30 p.m.