Rotational molder Nuwave Container LLC of Santa Ana, Calif., is riding a crest with innovative plastic commercial trash bins and nationwide licensed production.
Nuwave benefits from key relationships with resin supplier Nova Chemicals Corp.; rotomolders Rotonics Manufacturing Inc., Container Components Inc. and Plasticraft Inc.; and, for market reach, Rehrig Pacific Co.
Nuwave's high density polyethylene trash bins weigh about one-half of comparably sized metal cans. The bins avoid leaks, operate quietly and are graffiti-resistant, according to Chief Executive Officer and majority owner Richard Maggio. Five sizes range in capacity from 2-8 cubic yards.
Nuwave employs 30, and Maggio is contemplating the complications of quick growth.
``We are learning,'' Maggio said. ``We believe having plastic containers without metal will prove to be a disruptive technology.''
The patent-pending design is capturing waste-collection-industry interest. Maggio and Nuwave manufacturing manager Craig Pearson came up with the idea to integrally rotomold gusseted lifting pockets with PE thickness of 0.38-0.5 inch. Accelerated testing equal to about 15 years of lifting and dumping failed to affect the container adversely.
Nuwave contracted well-known consultant Glenn Beall for advice.
``This is impressive,'' said Beall, president of Glenn Beall Plastics Ltd. of Libertyville Ill. ``They have utilized the rotational molding process to the maximum capacity and done the right things.''
Beall said he didn't know of any other rotomolded all-plastic containers with capacity of 8 cubic yards. Typically, garbage-truck lifting forks damage large bins made of metal, or plastic bins with metal tubes, but the plastic in the Nuwave design appears to absorb and deflect blows, and bend as needed to keep from tearing, Beall said.
Nuwave's new trash container design coincided with Nova's initiative to broaden its PE market and promote growth within the rotomolding community. Nova contributed to Nuwave's imaginative design, resin choice and manufacturing and marketing connections.
Nuwave ``came up with an innovative concept and worked with companies along the way to make it a success,'' said Beth Eckenrode, vice president of Nova's advanced Sclairtech business.
``Nuwave had a concept on how the [bin] should look, and they were making changes to reflect customer wants,'' said Don Martone, Nova market manager for rotomolding. Combining the design with Nova's material development ``turned out to be effective. We saw the result immediately,'' he said.
The Nova resin uses an advanced Sclairtech catalyst and a dual reactor configuration. The patented process delivers a balance of stiffness and strength for the Surpass PE resin Nuwave uses, Martone said by phone from Nova's U.S. operating center near Coraopolis, Pa.
Nova began formulation trials in February and went commercial in April.
Now, a trash container pops easily out of a Nuwave mold. Previously, workers needed hammers and crowbars to remove them, especially in warm weather.
In a parallel development, Nova created a rotomolder network across North America. Starting last September, Nova began setting up the network to expand markets for existing applications and generate new rotomolding business from products made with other materials and processes. Nuwave linked up with both Rotonics of Gardena, Calif., and Container Components of Atlanta through the Nova network.
``Most rotomolders work in a defined geography,'' Nova's Eckenrode said. ``We saw a lot of applications we thought should be in plastic,'' and customers that wanted to be able to ``get the same part in Maine as in Washington state.'' Additional targeted products are shipping containers and vending machines.
In January, Nuwave moved to a 24,000-square-foot plant from an earlier Santa Ana location with 10,000 square feet, and immediately began to upgrade the site. The previous, tight quarters and small equipment had limited production to nine cans daily. That equipment is up for sale.
Nuwave began operating a Ferry 370 four-arm independent carousel in March and now can manufacture 40 cans a day. In may it started up a Ferry 270 four-arm independent carousel for making container lids.
Nuwave exhibited its wares April 5-7 at the Waste Expo trade show in Las Vegas.
``We left the show with 1,200 [trash bins] on order'' from all parts of the country, Maggio said.
Rotonics is licensed to make Nuwave containers in Gardena; Bensenville, Ill.; Brownwood, Texas; Commerce City, Colo.; Bartow, Fla.; Caldwell, Idaho; and Knoxville, Tenn. Container Components is licensed to rotomold the containers at its Atlanta plant, and Plasticraft in its Darien, Wis., site.
In the ongoing expansion, Nuwave uses several mold makers to make the tools for the five container sizes. ``We have 20 molds now,'' most of them at licensed locations, Maggio said.
Maggio connected with Rehrig in September 2003 at an Arizona trade show, where both firms were exhibitors. Among its lines, Rehrig injection molds wheeled carts and recycling bins for curbside household collections. With eight domestic injection molding plants, the Los Angeles-based firm is a major manufacturer of residential containers and of crates and pallets to handle, store and transport products.
At an early meeting, Maggio noted that his line of commercial-size containers complemented Rehrig's residential carts. ``We got together,'' he said.
Rehrig acquired a small ownership stake in Nuwave. Now, Rehrig's direct sales force markets Nuwave trash containers to waste haulers and municipalities nationwide.
Maggio's sales pitch for Nuwave containers is to ask a prospective customer: ``What do you like about your metal can?'' Silence is a typical response, he said.