Each day, Lockport-based Rubberform Recycled Products LLC takes tons of things that typically end up in landfills – rubber tires, ground-up computer parts, wire insulation and old conveyor belts – and makes its own line of eco-friendly products that seemingly can’t be manufactured quickly enough.
The company, which doesn’t create any scrap, makes money by taking such materials and transforming them into products for parking lots such as wheel stops, bases for stop signs and speed bumps.
“No one has written the book on how to make products from recycled rubber, but we are learning about how to do so,” said President Bill Robbins of his five-year-old company.And learning well, it would appear.
In the last year, Rubberform has gone from one manufacturing shift to three, and while Robbins wouldn’t disclose revenues, he said 2011 is the company’s first year in the black and sales have doubled since 2010.
Revenues were expected to be about $2.5 million, up from $1 million last year, when 12 people worked there. According to Robbins, that number has increased to 18.
“Business has just been taking off for us,” he said.
Can’t get enough scrap to turn into products
He refers to the 30,000 square-foot facility at 75 Michigan St. as a recycled building and boasts that the company, built on scrap, creates none of its own in the process.
In a Rubberform conference room, he points to a stop sign with a sturdy, 72-lb black rubber base that was made there.
Taking a closer look, it appears to have flecks of burnt orange in it. Robbins explains that’s because the rubber mix used to make it included scrap wire insulation from National Grid.
“We could take all of National Grid’s scrap, about 600,000 pounds of it per year,” he said.To make each sign base requires approximately five old tires.
“We go through two to three truckloads of tires per week,” he said, referring to 40,000-pound haulers that are driven in from High Tread International, Ltd., which uses recycled tires to make crumb rubber.
Robbins estimates Rubberform buys 325 million old tires from Liberty Tire/High-Tread, located a mile away at 409 Ohio St.
Besides tires, the company also arranges to have delivered each month:• 120,000 lbs. of old conveyor belts that were used in coal mines and manufacturing plants.• 40,000 lbs. of chopped-up computer boards.
“We mix in a certain percentage of these to make our products,” he said, adding they typically go into the manufacturing of speed bumps, slabs of rubber sidewalk and sign bases. All are made through a rubber molding process.
Besides molding, another division – die cutting – stamps out products such as dock bumpers, which allow a truck to back up to a building without damaging the truck or building. Robbins estimated his work force makes 3 million pounds of dock bumpers annually.
Workers also die-cut mounts for solar arrays or to protect hardware that needs to be installed on a roof for such projects. These products were made possible when Rubberform purchased the assets of a Canadian company. It began die-cutting last year.
Products sought by those who want to be green
Rubberform sells products through a network of distributors and resellers. Robbins said the process, as well as selling through exhibit and major sign companies, has led to growth. Rubberform sells through large distributors, resellers and value added resellers.
“Every single day we are actually adding new distributors, resellers and VARs,(Value Added Resellers)” he said.Today, it works with about 3,000 total.
Robbins said it expanded through a search engine optimization strategy, which results in the Rubberform name being at the top of Google and Yahoo searches for specific products. He said trade shows and email marketing also have been helpful in growing the operation.
He also said his products are favored by architects and engineers looking for those like his that are GreenSpec Listed. GreenSpec is a federal government certification earned when green materials and construction techniques are used.
by David Bertola – Buffalo Business First ReporterDavid Bertola – Buffalo Business First Reporter – dbertola@bizjournals