Consumer 10: Are Mulch Bags Really Worth Their Weight?


UPDATED: Friday April 25, 2014 6:42 PM

 In Consumer 10, Ohio Mulch is in the spotlight - in Ohio and Michigan - after tests revealed bags didn't contain as much mulch as they were supposed to.

Consumer 10's Kurt Ludlow looks into how those bags are tested.

A bag of Cypress Mulch claims to contain 3 cubic feet of product. 

The state is about to find out.

"Our division of Weights and Measures, what we do is try to ensure customers are getting what they pay for but also maintaining equity in the marketplace," says Brett Gates of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture follows national testing procedures approved by the mulch industry.

They're laid out in writing.  But in reality, the testing isn't complicated.

Each bag of mulch is rolled repeatedly to break up any clumps.  Then the bag is opened, and slowly poured into a specially-constructed 3-cubic foot box.

Read more about the accusations against Ohio Mulch

They use their hands to fluff the mulch as it enters the box. They are also careful not to bump the box, which would compact the mulch.  Once the bag is empty, they smooth out the mulch, make certain it’s level, and then take a measurement.

“This is a 3 cubic foot bag.  We're looking for 36 inches on the ruler.  We're measuring right at 37.  We measure every half-inch which is 72 cubic inches so this would be a plus 2 on our test report,” says Craig Harris, Weights & Measures Supervisor.

The bag appears to be over packed.  “There’s a little extra in here,” Harris adds.

The state says one bag out of every 12 tested can be 5 percent below the declared quantity.  Any more than that, can lead to bags of mulch being ordered off-sale.

The state conducts random tests, but also responds to complaints.

"Those complaints are a big component of this because we depend on folks calling in and want to ensure that they're getting what they pay for," Gates says

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