COWANSVILLE, Quebec—Delta Gomma Inc. and Waterville TG Inc. are working together to recycle waste EPDM from automotive and industrial parts.
It's a partnership that was forged within Elastomer Valley, a group of Quebec companies joining together for development projects, and the two firms continue to look for improvements that will benefit both.
Delta Gomma and Waterville started working together in 2000, when Daniel Martin, now president of Delta Gomma, was working alongside Waterville TG to try to find new ways to use crumb rubber in new products. Martin worked with Waterville TG's lab, with a goal to recycle EPDM from products such as the firm's automotive weatherstripping, which is a different process than for the SBR used in most tires.
He originally worked with tire recyclers to break down the rubber, but the methods used in tire recycling didn't work very effectively with the weatherstripping, which is long and more noodle-like, he said.
"The material comes out as a big spaghetti ball. You pull on one string and the whole lot will come," Martin said. "And (tire recyclers) had issues running this material because the way the conveyors are built, it was popular to have hooks. You put a tire on a hook and then it goes through the shredder. But these strips were just rolling and getting stuck all through the conveyors and shredders, and it was a really painful way of recycling it."
Martin worked with the team to find a better way, developing a process using "bits and pieces" of machines used in different market applications, he said. By 2006, they had their methods down and were taking more volume of EPDM from Waterville TG, currently covering about 30 percent of all of its rubber waste, and all of the plastics from the Waterville TG's Quebec plants.
The cured rubber is handled with a grapple, which makes it easier to move than with a hook, and fed through a primary and secondary shredder, then cut in a granulator. Any steel is removed through the use of a magnetic belt, and the EPDM is pulverized down to 8, 20 and 80 mesh. The 8 mesh rubber can be used in applications such as playground mats, roofing shingles or urethane molded products. Rubber from 20-80 mesh can be used for filler in an EPDM masterbatch, and in thermoplastic elastomer blends. It also can be used as an impact modifier for plastic products.
Delta Gomma extrudes materials in-house, and also creates rolls for die-cutters. It also makes compound plastic pellets that it sells to Tier 1 or Tier 2 injection molders. Annually, the company goes through about 4.41 million pounds of material at its 50,000-sq.-ft. facility in Cowansville.
But margins are extremely tight, as prices continue to remain low, he said, and there aren't many places to find efficiencies in the current process.
"The cost of recycling is always the same. You can't bring it down," Martin said. "Maybe a cent or two, but for the rest, it's a machine and a man who takes the scrap and puts it in the machine."
To continue to compete, Delta Gomma has shifted to make more materials in-house, which opens doors for automotive and industrial products. The recycled EPDM material doesn't have the odor that recycled material from tires does, and he's working on blending colors with the black material for more commercial and construction applications, such as white roofing.
"Right now, we're selling big rolls of rubber," he said. "Our next step is to transform more in-house and sell the final products. We're looking more industrial and automotive, especially in compounds, which is an attractive market. It's not too labor-intensive, and there's a true cost saving. It makes a really nice product, often over-spec'd to what the customer's asking."
Though the shift will get more attention this fall, Delta Gomma already is doing some molded parts for Ford, making under-the-hood parts for the current F250 and F350 models, said Martin.
Teaming up with Delta Gomma is part of an effort by Waterville TG to reduce waste, according to Serge Lamontagne, the firm's assistant general manager of maintenance, plant engineering, environment, and health and safety. Aside from the rubber and plastics it sends to Delta Gomma, the company also deals with such other waste as paper and cardboard.
"The long-term goal is to achieve zero landfill," Lamontagne said. "Today, we are recycling many products, but the biggest step to reach our targets is of course to take care of our most major source of landfill, which was cured rubber extrusion."
On the shop floor, rubber waste is separated out into recyclable and unrecyclable, which does still go to the landfill. But the remaining waste goes to Delta Gomma.
"Will we reach 100 percent, or zero landfill? Maybe not, but the ultimate goal is that," he said. "My midterm goal would be to go up to 80 percent landfill avoidance, and I'm pretty confident right now that with all the projects we've got going on, we can do that in the next year," he said.
Though the partnership is part of an environmentally conscious drive, there's also a cost savings for Waterville TG. Working with Delta Gomma, the firm saves between $30,000 and $50,000 each year, he said.
"We do save a lot of money from the landfill," Lamontagne said. "There is always a rise in cost to landfill, as an incentive so people take care of their own waste. We need to be in advance of that. I can't say it's zero-cost for the rubber recycling, but it's going to be less than the landfill, so it is win-win."