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DIVIDE AND CONQUER.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

The yard at Bulk Handling Systems is packed with Eugene-made recycling equipment that's headed for points near and far.

There's a ramp and sorting screen awaiting delivery to California. A bright green sorter almost ready for shipment to France. A piece of equipment destined for Alabama.

Bulk Handling is a small local business with global reach. In the mid 1990s, it created a screen and platform system that mechanically separates jumbled-up recyclable materials, such as newsprint, plastic, steel, aluminum and cardboard.

Bulk Handling's sorting technology has soared in popularity as a growing number of municipalities worldwide adopt commingled recycling - the collection of recyclable items together in one bin, instead of separately.

Fred and Karole Austin founded Bulk Handling in 1976. Last July, they sold the company to Bruce Farnsworth and a handful of investors.

Farnsworth, Bulk Handling's president, foresees continued growth for the 40-employee company.

"Commingled recycling is still relatively young in the United States, so there's certainly opportunity to grow for at least a few years," he said.

Bulk Handling Systems doesn't disclose annual sales. But Farnsworth said he'd be pleased if the firm's sales increase 10 to 15 percent this year.

The company is well-positioned to benefit from the commingled recycling trend in the United States, which started on the West Coast and is sweeping into other parts of the country.

The cost savings from this type of collection are compelling, haulers say.

Local hauler Sanipac introduced commingled recycling in Eugene-Springfield in May and unrolled its big blue collection carts in late December.

The change has enabled Sanipac to cut back from collecting the materials at curbside every week to collecting them every other week. That means fewer trucks on the road, and less hassle for collectors. Emptying the big roll carts is much easier than the smaller recycling bins previously used for different types of materials.

"The efficiencies of the new system are paying for the new equipment, and now we're eliminating a lot of job injuries in the recycling department," said John Hire, general manager of Sanipac.

What's happening in Eugene is expected to fast become the norm around the country.

"Within five years, the vast majority of municipalities (in the United States) will go to single-stream or commingled recycling," said Alex Cuyler, recycling analyst with the city of Eugene.

In industry jargon, single-stream recycling involves consumers lumping all recyclables, including glass, into a single container. In commingled recycling, consumers put some but not all recyclables into a single container.

Sanipac's Eugene and Springfield customers can toss all recyclables except glass into their carts. Newsprint is the main moneymaker in recycling, and it didn't make sense to pollute paper with shattered glass, Cuyler said.

All the material collected in those blue bins is trucked up to SP Recycling in Portland, where it is sorted by equipment similar to that made by Bulk Handling. When SP bought its equipment about 2 1/2 years ago, it chose a system produced by the Dutch company Bollegraaf - Bulk Handling's main competition.

The Bollegraaf equipment sorts about 20 tons of material an hour, said John Lucini, SP Recycling's vice president of the Pacific region.

Europe leads the world in recycling, thanks to its compact geography and scarcity of landfills.

"Europe is probably a decade ahead of the United States in their notion of recycling," Farnsworth said. "We've been able to use our European customers as a proving ground, which we can take back to the U.S."

Bulk Handling also sells equipment to Australia and countries in South America, and it has a licensing agreement with a manufacturer in Japan, Farnsworth said.

Like many Eugene manufacturing firms, Bulk Handling started out by making equipment for the wood products industry. Founder Fred Austin designed an enclosed conveyor to transport wood pieces for manufacturing particleboard.

When the wood products industry slumped in the 1980s, Austin turned to recycling. In the mid 1990s, he designed a unique sorting screen. The screen consists of a series of triangular shaped discs on shafts. As they rotate, openings appear in the screen, allowing dirt and glass shards to fall through. Meanwhile, the tips of the triangles propel paper forward, and push metal and plastic containers backward. The systems use other devices to cull out steel and aluminum.

The screens typically stand 12 to 15 feet high, with plenty of room for bins or conveyor belts to be placed below to catch the sorted material.

Bulk Handling has relatively few customers - in the hundreds, Farnsworth said. The machines are customized to individual customers, and their price varies widely. A single system can cost as much as a million dollars, he said.

Currently, several companies in Portland sort most of the recycled material in Oregon, said Hire, the Sanipac official.

It's cheaper to truck the materials to Portland than to set up sorting operations in smaller communities.

The equipment is expensive, and it's necessary to run a high volume of material through them to justify the purchase price.

"We looked at doing it in Eugene," Hire said. "This equipment is very specialized. You need to run a tremendous amount of stuff through it."

BULK HANDLING SYSTEMS

Business: Designs, manufactures machines that sort out recyclable materials

Established: 1976

Founders: Fred and Karole Austin

Owners: Bruce Farnsworth, other investors

Address: 1040 Arrowsmith St., Eugene

Employees: 40

Web: www.bulkhandlingsystems.com

CAPTION(S):

Bruce Farnsworth, president of Bulk Handling Systems, shows a finished recycling screen. The company has customers worldwide.
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Title Annotation:Business; Eugene company makes machines that sort recyclables
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 8, 2004
Words:915
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