CHICAGO—Akron, Ohio, recycler Exchange Plastics Corp. (Booth E14028) has developed a process it calls "demanufacturing" in response to excessive waste of good materials, mainly by auto-parts manufacturers.
At the company's Anderson, Ind., manufacturing facility, workers on an assembly line of sorts take in a part — say, a defective manifold — and disassemble it. Nuts, bolts, screws, washers and the like are removed.
Undamaged pieces are recovered and cleaned up if needed, then carefully repackaged and sent back to the manufacturer. Damaged pieces are recycled; some of the most frequently recovered plastics have been acrylic, polycarbonate, nylon and ABS.
Exchange sales manager George Nehrenz said the process is not the most high-tech at this time, but the response he has received from customers is encouraging.
"It would be easier to haul it [away], but we find the time to do it," he said. "It is tedious work, but as you do it, you find better ways to do things.
"We do find it cost-effective to demanufacture."
Nehrenz would not disclose the amount invested in the process, but said the figure almost evens out with what it would cost to landfill the same material.
"There is a cost associated with demanufacturing, but it's very competitive with landfilling, and we're giving something back to the customer," he said. "The cost of landfilling materials is in the ballpark of $27 a ton, plus dumping fees, plus freight. ... This is just an alternative solution."
In 27 years, Exchange Plastics has gone from founder Mel Temple's small plastics reselling business with a staff of three, to a more-than-modest corporate office in Akron, a 75,000-square-foot production facility in Anderson, and two more facilities to open soon in New York and along the Gulf Coast.
The firm currently reprocesses about 40 million pounds of material per year — primarily polycarbonate and other engineering resins, Nehrenz said.
Nehrenz, who worked for nearly 20 years for compounder A. Schulman Inc. before joining Exchange last year, reflected on a time when it was acceptable to discard defective or unwanted plastic parts and components.
"I can remember throwing away thousands of pounds of material on a weekly basis," he said. "We are trying to create a conscientious, cost-effective way to avoid that."
Exchange reported $14 million in sales for 1999, and Nehrenz said he expects the company to exceed that figure by the year's end.