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A Canadian scrap metal company sprouts a plastic recycling branch. (Company Profile).

A new Canadian-based recycling company has developed what it says is a proprietary process for recycling plastics that is giving it some advantages over the competition.

"We can take the plastics many other recyclers won't touch," says James Zonneveld, vice-president of marketing and administration for XPotential Products Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba. "We can use film plastic. We can take bottles that contained oil. Other processes require that the oil be washed out. As well, we can use the nonmetallic material left over from car shredding operations and mix it with our plastics," says Zonneveld.

The ability to use auto shredder residue is tied in with the scrap metal origins of XPotential.

SOLVING A PROBLEM

The XPotential process was developed at the behest of company president Jack Lazareck. Lazareck has been in the scrap metal and recycling business all his life, and had previously headed General Scrap, a major Winnipeg-based car shredding company.

"There is a lot of wastage in auto recycling," notes Zonneveld, who had earlier been involved in a private urban recycling program in Winnipeg.

"Tipping fees and hauling charges can add up to a lot of money. Jack wanted to find a way to use that leftover nonmetallic material and keep it out of the landfill. It is a problem all North American car shredders face. Until now, there was little use for that material."

Lazareck began searching for a solution to the problem in 1990. In 1994, he set up a pilot plant in Regina, a city of about 200,000, which serves as the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. (Regina is about 360 miles west of Winnipeg; Winnipeg, with a population of 680,000, is the capital of Manitoba.)

In August of 2000, Lazareck opened XPotential's Winnipeg plant. That facility, Zonneveld says, has an output that is three times that of the Regina plant.

"We proved the technology in Regina," he says. "Now we are ramping up the production in Winnipeg. Our goal from the start was to develop the technology and prove it at the Regina pilot plant, and then build a world class facility in Winnipeg."

Zonneveld notes that the first challenge that XPotential faced was the same one faced by most start-up companies: getting sales in place. "It was tough slogging at first," he says. "For years, we dreamed about facing the problem of being sold out. We have realized that moment. Last spring, we were in a sold out position for six months."

UP AND RUNNING

XPotential Products processes 180,000 pounds of material per day. The Winnipeg plant measures 27,000 square feet and, if needed, its location provides plenty of room to expand.

"We have deliberately oversized many of the plant's components," Zonneveld says. "We can thereby double or triple production without any downtime."

The company employs 50 people between the two plants. The Regina plant is in operation 24 hours a day, five days a week with weekend shifts added when needed. The Winnipeg plant runs two shifts that go from 7:00 a.m. to midnight.

With its mixed plastic feedstock, XPotential turns out a number of marketable products. Its parking curbs, for example, are used as an alternative to concrete. They are sold as offering advantages over concrete, including that they don't crack and their shock-absorption capability is much greater, thereby reducing potential liability.

"There is no danger of any rebar sticking out," Zonneveld notes. "Our product is also lighter. Concrete curbs have to be replaced every six or seven years. Our curbs last 75 years."

XPotential makes curbs that are four inches by six inches for the American market and 5-1/4 inches by eight inches versions for Canadian customers. Both curbs come in lengths of six to eight feet. Zonneveld points out that lengths of six feet are in greater demand in the U.S.

Early last year, the company introduced a four inches by four inches post as an alternative to pressure-treated fence posts. "Our posts last forever," states Zonneveld. "There is no rot. You can drill or put screws into it. It has up to nine times the nail retention of wood."

Another new XPotential product is a four inches round post for agricultural fencing. "Our marketing strategy is to manufacture larger products that are competitive in price with concrete and pressure treated lumber," says Zonneveld. "Our products are 100% recycled. We have a closed loop system. There is no wastage in our manufacturing process."

He reports that business began increasing dramatically in the fall of 2000 when XPotential managed to hook up with some major American lumber distributors. "We have been able to go in and train their people to sell our products," he explains. "It has produced a snowball effect and opened up all of North America to our products."

In addition to selling its manufactured recycled products, XPotential is marketing its recycling processes. "We have requests from all over North America and Europe from people who want to open their own plants using our processes," Zonneveld says. "No decisions have been made yet though" in terms of licensing the process.

XPotential Products is looking forward to continued significant growth. Zonneveld reports that sales in 2000 were triple what they were the year before. Last year (2001), sales were more than double. "We expect growth to continue in the 200% to 300% a year range for the foreseeable future," he says.

Selling The Merits of XPotential Plastic

Concrete and lumber are well established as the materials of choice for parking curbs and fence posts, respectively. So how does XPotential Products Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba, sell the merits of its recycled plastic curbs and fence posts?

On its company Web site, found at www.xpotentialproducts.com, the company offers several benefits of its hard plastic material made from auto shredder residue and other recycled plastic materials. Among the qualities listed:

* A 75 to 100-year life expectancy

* The material is not subject to rot or decay

* Fence posts won't warp or splinter

* The material offers twice the nail and screw retention ability of wood and some other types of plastic

* There are no chemical use that can leach into the soil

* It offers superior resistance to water, salt and petroleum products

* The material is resistant to fungus, termites and bacteria

* The products offer superior compressive strength and abrasion wear

* The material offers flame retardant and UV resistance qualities

* Although the curbs are durable, they are lighter than concrete

* There is less liability risk for the curbs without rebar present (which could puncture tires or otherwise damage vehicles)

* XPotential Products offers a limited lifetime product warranty.

The author is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg Manitoba. He can be contacted via e-mail at myron@autobahn.mb.ca.
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Article Details
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Author:Love, Myron
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Words:1124
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