Mike Rouse's decision to sell his company is a tragedy heaped upon a tragedy.
Rouse Polymerics International Inc. was the scene of one of the worst disasters to befall a company in the rubber industry. An explosion and fire on May 16, 2002, killed five and injured seven, and ultimately sent the producer of recycled rubber compound to bankruptcy court.
Like any basic industry, the rubber business has had its share of industrial accidents. It was a dirty, dangerous business decades ago, where physical risk was just part of the job.
That's long changed in this country and throughout most of the world. Safety is a top priority, period.
Accidents like that at Rouse Polymerics do occur. Similiarly, an explosion and fire at West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.'s Kinston, N.C., site in 2003 caused six deaths and dozens of injuries. That's why they call them accidents-unexpected and unintentional events. Fortunately, they are a rarity.
At West, a much-larger business, the firm has been able to recover. It moved production to other plants, built a new facility not far from the destroyed site, and rehired Kinston workers who were displaced.
Rouse Polymerics hasn't been as lucky. The company built a smaller factory at the Vicksburg, Miss., location, run by a handful of employees rather than the 100 it previously had, and narrowed its business focus. Lawsuits from accident victims and their families, a neighboring business damaged in the accident and a supplier drove Rouse Polymerics to bankruptcy court protection.
Now Mike Rouse is trying to sell the business.
It's a real shame. Rouse isn't just a guy who ran a rubber recycling company. For years he's been out front in trying to develop and promote the field, a real ``Mr. Recycling.'' One example: Rouse was the driving force behind the creation of a rubber recycling group within the ACS Rubber Division.
Rouse could move onto other things, but hopes to serve as a consultant when his company eventually is sold. Keeping his knowledge and passion for rubber recycling within the business would be a good thing.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.