RECYCLER GREENMAN AIMS TO FINE-TUNE PROCESS

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SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. — GreenMan Technologies Inc. is seeking more material advances and tougher quality standards to refine its uses for recycled rubber and plastics.

Limitation to surface modifications of carbon black poses a marketing problem, said Terry Atha, general manager of GreenMan's recycling division in Jackson, Ga.

``I need [new chemistry to achieve] carbon greens, carbon grays and carbon reds,'' Atha said in a talk titled ``Converting Waste into Marketable Products and Making a Profit.'' He spoke April 23 at the Plastics, Packaging and Recycling Symposium in San Luis Obispo.

``I need more standards to establish quality on both the rubber and plastic sides,'' he said. ``You get inconsistency of products,'' suggesting a need for more ASTM standards.

``We need new ways of making molds quicker and faster,'' he said.

He is looking to reduce tooling costs to $5,000-$10,000 from $50,000-$750,000. Atha has a background in injection molding and tire recycling.

He displayed a trash container that enters the consumer market this spring. Corral and picket fencing is next.

Also, Atha showed roofing material, anti-fatigue mat, industrial flooring and an audio speaker and mentioned landscaping timbers, railway ties and crossing mats among potential uses for GreenMan materials, known as GEM-Stock.

GreenMan took a quantum leap April 18. The firm signed a letter of intent to purchase tire recycling operations in Jackson, Ga., and Savage, Minn., and tire processing assets in Azusa, Calif., from Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. of Houston. Atha said the equivalent of 24 million passenger tires passed through the BFI facilities in 1996.

The acquisition should close by the end of June and would triple revenues for GreenMan, based in Lynnfield, Mass. The firm reported fiscal 1996 sales of $4.3 million, incurring a loss of $1.6 million.

Reflecting a heavy investment cycle, GreenMan lost $3.5 million on sales of $2.6 million for the nine months ended Feb. 28. GreenMan stock trades as a Nasdaq Small Cap issue.

Since December 1995, GreenMan has leased a 15,000-square-foot facility in Jackson, Ga., from BFI subsidiary BFI Tire Recyclers of Georgia Inc. and has obtained waste tires under a multiyear arrangement. The acquisition will eliminate a costly take-or-pay obligation and put GreenMan in charge of an 89,000-square-foot operation now employing 32.

A $1.4 million cryogenic recycling system began operating in mid-1996. The process makes rubber brittle enough to shatter and remove a tire's steel and fiber components. The remainder is ground into particles called crumb rubber, compounded with recycled and virgin polymers in a Mississippi facility and injection molded on 11 leased Mitsubishi Heavy Industries injection molding presses at GreenMan's Malvern, Ark., molding facility. The firm will add an extruder soon.

About 80 work at the 50,000-square-foot Arkansas site, which GreenMan intends to change gradually to a captive molding operation from a custom house. Water filters and pumps for Jacuzzi Bros. in Little Rock, Ark., accounted for about 38 percent of GreenMan's sales for the fiscal year ended May 31. Gas caps for Stant Manufacturing Inc. of Connersville, Ind., were 14 percent.

To broaden the range of GEM-Stock, GreenMan licensed proprietary additive technology for mixing and blending dissimilar plastics and rubber from Plastic Solutions of Texas Inc. of Dallas in April 1996.