|Ashtabula Rubber Company
(ARC) and The Entrepreneurs EDGE
challenged two Case Western Reserve University students with the task of identifying economically feasible and practical opportunities to reuse and recycle excess non-tire rubber, while leading the way for other non-tire rubber companies to a more sustainable future. ARC is a non-tire specialty rubber products manufacturer with over 400,000 pounds of rubber waste annually. Even though non-tire products account for almost 40 percent of all rubber consumed in the U.S., most of the discarded material ends up in landfills, since rubber recycling efforts have targeted mostly waste tire products.
EDGE Fellows Suhail Malhotra (BS, Chemical Engineering) and Maura Slater (MBA, Marketing) worked with Neil McCarthy, Senior Vice President at ARC, and Carol Staiger, Business Mentor for EDGE, during an intensive, two-month summer program to identify several short and long-term recommendations for ARC to maximize the potential of their waste rubber. Their research efforts connected them with Wayne Earley, chief executive officer at PolymerOhio, numerous recycling operations across the country, and many other leaders in the polymer industry, including experts at The University of Akron Polymer Center, who are working on breakthrough technology that will revolutionize the way by which non-tire rubber is recycled.
In their final report, Suhail and Maura offered a list of recommended opportunities that could generate a projected annual savings of up to $300,000 for ARC. One short-term recommendation includes separating and reusing ground rubber powder produced from ARC’s in-house grinders instead of purchasing an expensive central dust collection system. Malhotra and Slater also identified multiple technologies that help facilitate the reuse of this “grinding dust” to make new rubber, while minimizing the impact on material properties. Long-term opportunities require larger upfront costs, but project more significant returns over a five-year period. Utilizing these technologies can drastically increase how much waste rubber can be reused as well as enhance some of the physical properties of the new products.
Not only did Malhotra and Slater develop a comprehensive analysis of the non-tire rubber recycling industry to assess market potential and triple bottom line benefits, but they also created a replicable recycling business model that can benefit other non-tire rubber companies. At present, Suhail and Maura can replicate their effort for other companies with questions and opportunities similar to those of Ashtabula Rubber. Interested companies should contact PolymerOhio.
The Entrepreneurs EDGE is a non-profit economic development organization, which connects talented students with NE Ohio companies to assist with new business development and innovation projects.
PolymerOhio, Inc. is a polymer industry-specific Ohio Edison Technology Center, which is funded by the Ohio Department of Development. PolymerOhio focuses on enhancing the global competitiveness of the polymer industry, including companies from the plastics, rubber, bioproducts, and advanced materials segments. For more information, go to polymerohio.org.
The Ashtabula Rubber Company is more than just a manufacturer of rubber components: it is a design manufacturer and technical service provider with more than 60 years of experience in the rubber industry. Since 1945, Ashtabula Rubber has built a reputation for finding the right design, right materials, and the right geometry for its customers. Ashtabula Rubber prides itself on its ability to provide customers with quality rubber components and first-class customer service.