ORLANDO, FLA. — It wasn't quite a Sweet 16, or even a quinceañera, but for Geo-Tech Polymers, NPE 2015 was definitely a coming out party.
The company, only 12 years old, exhibited for the first time at NPE. It's not just the first time at NPE, but it's the first time anywhere, ever.
And it's part of a strategy to introduce the company — which was born out of a process to remove precious metals from polycarbonate fighter jet canopies — to a wider audience.
CEO Ronald L. Whaley, who has been with the company for about a year, says his firm is ready to promote to the world its patented process to remove materials such as coatings, inks, labels, paints and contaminants from the surface of a wide variety of recycled plastics.
Through a combination of heat, friction and chemistry, Geo-Tech's process is so effective that it can turn used food-grade plastics back into food-grade resin feedstock.
But food is only one market Geo-Tech serves, Whaley said. Automotive, consumer products and electronics also are major markets for the company in Waverly, Ohio.
“The show is sort of our coming out party, because for 10 years the company didn't advertise. People would find it and thought it was a very good company, but now we are delivering our technology. We're really a technology-based company. We're focused on cleaning resins,” Whaley said.
A desire to have a more public-facing approach came with the sale of the company a couple of years ago to Wastren Advantage Inc., which historically has been focused on hazardous and nuclear waste remediation, primarily through contracts with the government.
“They just saw this as a great way to expand into a commercial operation,” the CEO said. “So, really, Geo-Tech is almost a reborn company.”
Along with its more public posture, the company also gained some attention last year when it was given a plastics recycling innovation award from the American Chemistry Council, Whaley said.
Geo-Tech started in Westerville, Ohio, north of Columbus, and still operates a facility there. The company's Waverly site began a couple of years ago with 50,000 square feet and has expanded to 120,000 square feet due to demand.
“We're adding more equipment to expand our capacity. We're close to being capacity constrained. And we're just staying ahead of that by meeting our customer's needs by adding equipment and employees,” the CEO said.
The company uses a combination of heat, friction and chemicals to clean and wash resins.
“There are chemicals, there's no solvents. All of our chemicals are approved by the FDA and they are environmentally sensitive. We don't use anything that is harsh,” Waverly said. “And that's really where our patented technology comes in because we have patents on our chemical compounds as well as the cleaning technology.”
Plastics typically are cleaned in batches of 15,000 to 20,000 pounds at a time. “I oftentimes describe it as a very, very large washing machine,” Whaley said.
Winning the award and receiving FDA clearance for its food-grade resin recycling, he said, is “third-party affirmation of what we are doing.”
“The demand for clean, recycled material is basically unlimited right now. Most customers I talk to see things changing. Most of them feel threatened one way or another,” Whaley said.
That's because companies are anticipating pressure to increase use of recycled plastics in their products in the coming years from governments, retailers and consumers, he said. “More and more companies, I believe, are trying to get ahead of the curve,” Whaley said.