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PolyVulc USA turns a major disposal waste problem into new products

What can you do with those big piles of used tires?

VICKSBURG — Each year about 2.7 million tires — an average of one tire for each resident of the state — is discarded in Mississippi. With space in landfills becoming increasingly rare and costly, there has been a critical need to find alternatives for disposing of waste tires.

Thanks to an innovative company called PolyVulc USA, many of the used tires in the state are now being recycled into new products instead of being landfilled.

Luis Murillo, with the Special Waste Section of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), says PolyVulc USA has come to play an important role in solving the waste tire disposal problem. PolyVulc grinds tire scraps into small “crumbs” which are then mixed with waste plastics to manufacture condensing pads that are used underneath air conditioners and foundation piers for mobile homes.

“That not only takes waste material out of the landfill, saving space, but promotes the reuse of post-consumer products,” Murillo said.

The state plans to ban disposing of tires in landfills by the year 2001, so it is critical that ways be found to recycle the tires into other products.

The majority shareholders in PolyVulc are Larry Lambiotte, who serves as president of the company and chairman of the board, and Fred Farrell, who is a director and vice president of sales. The two men also co-own Falco Lime in Vicksburg, which manufactures and distributes hydrate lime and quick lime in three states, utilizing company-owned barge transportation and a fleet of pneumatic tank trucks.

Farrell and Lambiotte became interested in starting the PolyVulc business after economic development officials pitched the idea of starting an industry to recycle tire rubber and recycled plastic to make engineered products.

“Having been successful with Falco, which we started 22 years ago, we were looking for another business opportunity,” Lambiotte said. “We thought with some of our kids getting older, it would be a good time to expand and diversify a little bit. We also wanted to help the environment by doing away with a lot of the scrap tires and plastic in the state.”

PolyVulc was started with the assistance of grants and loans from the DEQ and the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development. The first year and half was spent on research and development. The business is highly capital intensive due to the cost of the molds and the large size of the injection molding machines it takes to shoot the parts. The molds cost between $50,000 and $100,000 each, and there are now 18 different molds in the 120,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

The first year of manufacturing, 50,000 of the pads were sold. That grew to 150,000 the second year, and this year the company hopes to sell 300,000 condensing pads.

“We have been happy with the growth of the company,” Farrell said. “It’s familiarity in the marketplace becomes greater each year we are in business, and it has proven to outperform other plastic-only pads in the market. Ours is more durable. We’ve got the tire rubber in ours. Nobody else does that.”

The carbon black in the tire rubber serves as a UV inhibitor. That makes the pad last longer and absorb rather than reflect the UV radiation. The plastic pads reflect heat up to the condensing coils, making the air conditioning run hotter and longer. The black pad absorbs the heat, and makes the unit run cooler. The pads absorb vibration, so the air conditioner runs quieter and will last longer.

The black pad also has advantages over concrete pads including being less expensive and time consuming to install. If a pre-poured concrete slab is used, it takes four men to pick it up because of its weight. By contrast, the black pad is lightweight, can be lifted by one person, and is easy to transport. Workers’ compensation claims are reduced.

The company has 11 sizes of the three-inch-thick pads that fit most popular models of condensing units. They also manufacture six two-inch-thick pads for the mobile home manufacturing market.

Another leading product for PolyVulc is pier pads for manufactured housing. Each mobile home has a minimum of 26 foundation piers underneath it. The black pads are placed underneath the concrete blocks, and have many of the same advantages as the air conditioning pads. The pads are light weight, easy to use, inexpensive and easier to transport.

The tire crumbs that PolyVulc uses comes from Tire Technology in Jackson where the tires are reduced down to quarter inch chips after the fiber and wire have been removed and recycled. The quarter-inch chips are shipped to Vicksburg where they are further ground.

Farrell said he and Lambiotte had to learn a whole new industry with PolyVulc, and credits plant manager Landell Moak and molding expert Jim McGee with heading the business in a successful direction. Also, Penny Hoxie, inside sales and customer sales representative; Louis Lambiotte, sales representative; and Ron May, in production, have been instrumental in the early growth of the company. PolyVulc currently employs 40 people.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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