For several years, Recovery Technologies Group Inc. has called itself the fastest-growing tire recycler in the U.S.
Now, the Guttenberg-based firm is ``taking a step back,'' in the words of President Marty Sergi, to look at its operations with an eye toward restructuring some and expanding others.
The restructuring includes closure of a tire-derived fuel facility in Elliott, Maine; reorganization of tire collection efforts in Florida; and an executive restructuring that includes the appointment of a new chief operating officer, the promotion of one regional manager and the layoff of another.
The company is increasing substantially its crumb rubber output at its facilities in Moncks Corner, S.C., Braddock, Pa., and Assinaboia, Saskatchewan. It also just won contracts with the provincial governments of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island to collect scrap tires there.
Recently, RTG has been beset by rumors that it expanded too much, too fast. Mr. Sergi denied this but did say the privately owned company will start pacing itself as to where and when to expand.
``We will expand at a slower pace, but we intend to keep expanding our crumb rubber operations and most certainly we intend to process more tires,'' Mr. Sergi said.
Currently RTG processes more than 40 million tires a year, he added. The company has increased its production of crumb rubber twenty-fold in the past decade, according to Mr. Sergi, to 300 million pounds annually from 15 million.
Probably the biggest impetus RTG received was its 2001 contract with Ford Motor Co. to recycle recalled Firestone light truck tires.
This deal not only brought some 8 million scrap tires to RTG but also increased the company's participation in high-end markets such as landscaping mulch, molded goods, rubberized asphalt and particularly athletic fields, which Mr. Sergi described as the fastest-growing application for crumb rubber.
RTG held contracts with Ford even before the recall business, according to Andrew G. Acho, Ford worldwide director of environmental outreach and strategy.
Besides its continuing contract with Ford, RTG also has tire collection contracts with many individual Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, Mr. Acho said.
``I've always found RTG to be extremely ethical,'' he said. ``Whenever they make a promise, they deliver.'' On Ford's recommendation, the state of New York provided RTG with financial aid that facilitated the company setting up business there, he added.
RTG's business is now 85-percent devoted to crumb rubber for high-end applications, according to Mr. Sergi, with the rest divided between TDF and civil engineering projects.
The firm now has 11 processing plants-seven for crumb, three for TDF and one in Newfoundland devoted merely to shredding the tires collected there for shipment to the RTG plant in Nova Scotia. The ultimate goal, according to Mr. Sergi, is to turn that all into crumb production.
The Maine TDF facility was mothballed the third week of October, with the loss of 22 jobs, according to Mr. Sergi. ``We may be back in that market in the future-but as a crumb producer, not TDF,'' he said.
In Saskatchewan, RTG added capacity for 25 million pounds of ambient-processed, all-black crumb (i.e. truck and agricultural tires) to the existing cryogenic capacity for 25 million pounds of passenger tire crumb. The additional capacity means about 10 new jobs for the facility, Mr. Sergi said, and the operations started up last fall.
At the Pennsylvania and South Carolina plants, RTG has added an extra 15-20 million pounds of capacity each for cryogenically produced crumb specifically to serve the athletic field market-``both natural turf additive and artificial turf,'' Mr. Sergi said.
Also to serve the field market, RTG has established three new warehouses in Romulus, N.Y., Columbiana, Ohio, and Houston, bringing its total warehouses to six.
The warehouses are necessary, Mr. Sergi said, because the athletic field business is highly seasonal. Meanwhile, the contracts to collect tires in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland will bring an extra 700,000 tires annually to RTG's facility in Nova Scotia, he said.