Tewa Technology Corp. has a limited life span as its owners struggle to secure funding.
The Albuquerque plastic asphalt firm filed Sept. 12 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but President Erik Bowers said the firm is unlikely to recover.
``We've got a very short fuse for Tewa,'' he said in an Oct. 8 telephone interview. ``It may go down under pressure.''
Bowers said the firm's current losses total roughly $1.2 million, with $472,000 in secured debt and assets of $250,000. Tewa has laid off the five employees at its 17,000-square-foot, leased facility.
Bowers and co-founder Gary Fishback are disappointed that the firm's product, Plasphalt, was not accepted in New Mexico, where they founded Tewa in 1999.
Tewa's process, called Treated Recycled Plastic Aggregate, blends commingled recycled plastic in a patented process that allows the granulated plastic to adhere to asphalt. The end product lasts longer and is more stable than traditional paving materials, Bowers said.
California and Pennsylvania may be the next development sites. The product still is being test-marketed in both states.
``We've been struggling along,'' said Terry Crouthamel, product specialist with Paving Technologies LLC, a company in Bath, Pa., that is using Tewa's technology.
``I've been working on it for three years,'' Crouthamel said. ``If [Pennsylvania] would only do 10-15 percent of their normal asphalt needs with this product, it would use all the plastic waste generated in the state for which there's currently no use.''
Although the material has not met state approval, certain local municipalities are buying the product with their own dollars, Crouthamel said. The difficulty lies in garnering the support of state and local officials, Bowers said.
``This is really what we're after at this point, are demonstration projects,'' he said. ``The construction industry is very conservative, so it will take a long time to get everyone over the fear factors. We are discouraged at this point. We've had a difficult time getting the contractor community to accept the product.''
Still, state officials in New Mexico say it all boils down to cost.
The state put two 1-mile test strips on Interstate 25, with companion, nonmodified sections to compare materials. The state laid the test strips two years ago, said John Tenison, state materials bureau chief based in Santa Fe.
``Basically, we've seen no performance difference,'' Tenison said in an Oct. 15 telephone interview. ``[Plasphalt] was about $2 a ton more than the hot mix with no performance difference. The proof is on the road. ... We do not have enough funding to maintain all our roads. We're watching our dollars.''
Bowers, however, said that in the long run, Plasphalt pays for itself.
``We anticipate, when introducing [Plasphalt] into a mix, we will see a 25 percent increase in longevity of the material, which equates to a net savings in the long run,'' Bowers said.
Until Tewa's business provided demand for more materials, Placitas Recycling Association in Albuquerque only collected high density polyethylene and polypropylene. Placitas has been writing letters to the state requesting assistance for Tewa.
``It's been sort of a slow process for us to get any kind of assistance that has been meaningful,'' said Placitas owner John Knapp. ``When we found out we could collect all types of plastic, that made our life a lot easier.
``Unfortunately, because Tewa can't accept any more plastic, we've had to take [more than 3,000 pounds] to the landfill. We had no more room in our facility,'' Knapp said.