Recycling could soon overtake rotomolding as the main business for Rotational Molding of Utah.
The Brigham, Utah, firm is capitalizing on its proprietary technology to convert dirty plastic scrap into such diverse products as pallets, garden stones, biofilter floors and exercise equipment components. Recent annual growth of its recycling unit has been about twice that of the company's rotational molding business, putting it on a trajectory to overtake rotomolding in a few years, according to Rotational Molding of Utah President and Chief Executive Officer David Little.
Little developed a process that begins with a conditioner step for mixed plastics. Next a hydraulic press compresses the material in mating female and male molds. Pressure of the hydraulic press runs from 100 to 600 tons and can create a plastic sheet as big as 4 by 8 feet, Little said in a telephone interview from Brigham.
Depending on the part, wood fiber can be added to the scrap for stiffness or glass can be added to increase weight, Little said. Glass-filled boards are finding use, for example, in military pallets to carry weapons. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has bought these kinds of pallets. Rotational Molding of Utah partners with Archer Technologies International Inc. of Shawnee, Okla., to develop similar military uses for its recycled products.
Rotational Molding of Utah started out in 1992 as a rotomolder of cross-linked polyethylene waste containers. In this was the germ of the recycling business.
``I saw the need for recycling cross-linked polymers and other materials not normally recyclable,'' Little recalls of the days he pioneered the technology in the early 1990s. He led the development of a recycling process and equipment that could handle up to 40 percent contamination.
Little's firm now sources a range of scrap locally and farther afield from industrial sites, some of which do compacting.
``We can handle metalized material such as potato chip bags,'' Little explained. ``We do our own grinding and densifying. We can use shrink-wrap and labels. There's no labor for separating.''
ReSyk Inc., an Ogden, Utah, business spun off to market the recycling technology, has had rights to the technology for about five years, although the rotomolder retains rights to use it and make its own machinery, Little said. There are now five such lines running in Utah, including those at Rotational Molding of Utah and others at undisclosed companies, said Chris Brough, ReSyk's general manager. Other installations include Houston, Texas, as well as Grand Rapids, Mich.
Rotational Molding of Utah also plans to open recycling facilities based on the technology in the Fresno, Calif., area and in South Carolina.
Little said despite its recycling success, Rotational Molding of Utah has no plan to exit its namesake business. The company runs nine rotomolding lines, eight of which are clamshell types and the other a 12-foot shuttle. It emphasizes custom work in its 50,000-square-foot facility. The market has gotten crowded and cost competitive for standard-size waste containers and similar products, Little lamented.
He credits employees, partners and local government for support that helped his recycling technology take off. Employees have been rewarded with a stake in the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, he explained. He declined to provide sales figures but said he expects the recycling side of the company will grow 40 percent this year, double rotomolding's growth.