PHOENIX-Aquapore Moisture Systems Inc., a producer of garden hoses made with scrap tire rubber, has seen sales pick up as consumers become more recycling conscious. Aquapore's manufacturing process requires more effort than conventional hose production, but it has been paying off in the marketplace, the company said.
``We were looking for a way to use old tires, to grind them up to make consumer goods,'' said Shannon Bard, Aquapore president and CEO. ``We wanted to make a dent in the 270 million tires going into landfills (annually).''
After experimenting with other possible recycled rubber products, Mr. Bard discovered that soaker hoses made from recycled tires bonded with polyethylene were not only feasible but efficient.
``The concept of porous tubing has been around for a hundred years, but it wasn't done in this manner,'' he said. ``This (design) saves 70 percent of the water used with a sprinkler.''
Using polyethylene fits with Aquapore's environmental focus since it eliminates the need to use foam polyvinyl chloride, which produces chlorofluorocarbons, Mr. Bard said.
The company uses a mixture of 65 percent recycled material in the production of its soaker and sprinkler hoses-the maximum amount possible without damaging the quality of the hoses, according to Mr. Bard.
``It doesn't fade and crack. From a quality standpoint, you can't beat it,'' he said.
However, using recycled materials is costly, as the company must pay for transportation and cleaning of the materials, along with a collection fee.
The company, formed in 1981, has grown substantially despite initial resistance from retailers and companies reluctant to push something that was ``made out of old tires,'' Mr. Bard said.
But once the recycling trend took off, Aquapore's hose business increased significantly.
``With the current water conservation and recycling issues, we've picked up. It was a case of lucky timing,'' Mr. Bard said, claiming the company has an 80-percent market share in the U.S. lawn and garden soaker hose segment.
The manufacturer, which employs 130 workers at its 150,000-sq.-ft. facility in Phoenix, uses more than 850,000 tires annually to produce the hoses.
Aquapore's parent firm, Alterra Holdings Corp., also owns rubber matting maker Royal Rubber & Manufacturing Co.