LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.—A focus on market development. That's the key element that has allowed Waste Tire Management to succeed where many other tire recyclers have failed, President Ron Green believes.
``Many (people) who get into this business leave their business acumen behind. You have to make more money at the end of the month than you spend,'' he said. ``You have to be market-driven and stake out the markets for your products before making (them).
``We've focused on market development, realizing the success of the company depended on the value of the end-product rather than on tipping charges,'' he said.
Mr. Green admitted Lawrenceville-based WTM—which collects and processes tires into tire-derived fuel and crumb for landscaping applications—competes with companies offering cheaper collection fees.
``The bottom line is we would not have done the customer any service if we came in with prices so low we could not stay in business,'' he said.
Mr. Green founded WTM in 1992 and last March sold it to Republic Industries, a major solid waste management firm. WTM has been profitable for the last two years, Mr. Green said, but he acknowledged the company, which started out processing tires into TDF, had a rough infancy.
But now it's turning the corner and is expanding beyond TDF into marketing what he called more lucrative recycled end-products.
WTM has two recycling plants, in Lawrenceville and in Batesburg, S.C., 35 trucks, 350 trailers and two mobile shredders. The company operates principally in Georgia and South Carolina but does some business in North Carolina, Tennessee and northern Florida.
The TDF market has served WTM well, but ``we look at the TDF market as a necessary but temporary market for our growth plans,'' Mr. Green said.
This spring, after three years of development, WTM's Encore Rubber Products division will begin marketing its proprietary Perma-Mulch through retailers nationwide, including Home Depot, Wal-Mart Stores and Ace Hardware.
The loose crumb rubber, colored to resemble wood mulch, along with mats for landscaping will be marketed to commercial accounts and government entities as well. Just recently, WTM installed its bonded rubber matting on a well-traveled foot path in the Tallulah Gorge park in Georgia.
The mulch will be packaged in 2-cubic-foot bags or sold in bulk; the mats will be available individually in 16-inch, 24-inch and 36-inch sizes.
The fact that the products are made from recycled material is a side benefit, according to Mr. Green. ``The product's success can't be that it is recycled, but that it is unique, solves a lot of the problems in each of the three sectors and is reasonably priced.''
The mulch is the first in a line of products the company plans to develop, he said.
Processing scrap tires collected from retailers and tire dump abatement projects has historically been WTM's core business, Mr. Green said. But the firm is ``rapidly shifting to focus on the end product.''
In 1997, WTM will continue to grow its tire processing operation as well as assess acquisitions and start-up opportunities and evaluate new products that fit the value-added criteria.
The company also now has the backing of its parent company, which provided several million dollars in additional capital equipment to process tires into crumb.
Many end-users are requiring consistency of crumb product. ``It's not difficult to make crumb rubber,'' Mr. Green said. ``It is very difficult to make high-quality crumb rubber with consistency.''
To this end, he foresees a fallout in the ground rubber industry but believes there is still room for recyclers with resources and capabilities—along with an understanding of that key business principle: ``People who get involved in the industry have to have a market established before they start production,'' he said.