Hancor Inc. officials say they've achieved an industry first.
The Findlay-based maker of high density polyethylene drainage pipe now is marketing its EcoFirst pipe, an HDPE product sized from 4-30 inches in diameter containing a minimum of 50 percent recycled content. The product is intended for use in drainage applications that may include installation beneath pavement and driving surfaces.
It's not the first time recycled resin has been used in pipe products, officials acknowledge, but the blending technology is original. Hancor expects to receive a patent any time on that process. Officials would say only that the product does not contain curbside post-consumer waste and that the material stream is scrutinized closely.
``The good news now is that our utilization rates are up to the maximum,'' said Bill Altermatt, Hancor's vice president of sales and marketing. ``The addition of machinery is not too far down the road.''
Hancor extrudes the pipe at all but its Waverly, N.Y., location. Parent firm Jancor Cos. Inc. operates 14 facilities throughout the United States.
There are certain standards, though, for HDPE pipe installed in road and highway applications. The American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials has performance requirements for cell classification and slow crack growth resistance. AASHTO specifies virgin polyethylene for those applications.
Hancor is not saying EcoFirst is an AASHTO product, officials said.
``We go beyond measures to make sure standards are adhered to,'' Altermatt said in a recent interview at Hancor's headquarters. ``We can comply with the performance requirements.''
The distinction is important to Hancor, which has spent nearly 20 years perfecting its recycled material blend. In 1976 the firm introduced small-diameter, smooth-wall sewer and drainage pipe with as much as 80 percent recycled content. Officials said they have been blending at a very sophisticated level for a long time and the implementation was easy because they had the systems in place.
But just a few weeks ago, four firms collaborated to write a letter to engineers and municipal specifiers speaking out against the use of recycled materials in those HDPE pipe applications beneath pavement or driving surfaces. Known as the ``white paper,'' the letter questions quality control over the materials stream and the performance of the finished product. The four firms that submitted the white paper are Advanced Drainage Systems Inc., of Hilliard, Ohio; Lane Enterprises Inc., based in Shippensburg, Pa.; Quality Culvert Inc., of Wausau, Wis.; and Francesville Drain Tile Corp., based in Francesville, Ind.
Hancor posted a response on its Web site, acknowledging the industry concern. Officials said that EcoFirst was developed at the demand of its customers and that the product also increases compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's Phase II Best Management Practices. The product has a five-year warranty and portions of proceeds go to Ducks Unlimited, the wetland conservation group based in Memphis, Tenn.
``Introduction of this product comes after years of research and development, process control development and implementation of a quality control process, arguably the best in the industry,'' read the Hancor response. ``The ability to control the product performance is based on a solid foundation of polymer science that utilizes molecular enhancement to obtain targeted performance levels of the finished product materials.''