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Diaper recycler reusing pulp and plastic for innovative environmental answers.

A small company that has only been in existence for two years is currently making an impression on the baby diaper and adult brief industry...and leaving no impression in the country's landfills and incinerators. Keystone Recycling, a Meadville, PA company that was created in 1990, reclaims fluff pulp from off-quality/scrap disposable diapers and recycles that pulp - as well as the plastic wrapper - into viable end uses.

"As much as 7% of all the disposable baby diapers and adult briefs manufactured are rejected at the time of manufacture," estimated David Hillman, chief executive officer." In the past, these producers have had the option of incineration, landfilling, reclaiming the fluff inhouse, selling off-quality diapers as seconds or selling rejected diapers to be processed by an outside recycler.

"We are a perfect example of using a niche market to respond to a timely situation," he said. As pulp prices escalate (as they are forecast to do through the next three years), disposables producers are anxious to reduce the cost of raw materials; Keystone offers top quality pulp at lower than top quality prices.

Keystone: A Company Profile

The company's original plan was to reprocess the diapers, separate the fluff pulp from the plastic and resell the pulp as raw material, determining at a later date how it could reuse the "other" material. Keystone designed eight custom built machines, but then ran into problems as rubber bands present in the product accumulated in customers' equipment and caused unacceptable levels of downtime.

At this time, private label diaper supplier Whitestone Products was a major customer. In an effort to keep Keystone in business, Whitestone offered to lease two LaRoche separating systems to Keystone; these machines today form the cornerstone of Keystone's success.

Keystone's production facility, located in Meadville, includes 10,500 square feet of production space and 62,250 square feet of warehousing. The facility runs five days a week, three shifts a day, with production expected to move to a seven day schedule by the end of the year. "We are currently in the process of fine tuning and maximizing production and we are selling every pound we make," said Mr. Hillman. He added that the company may also add a third line, although this is still in the early consideration stages.

The company reprocesses disposable diapers, adult incontinence briefs and feminine hygiene products; fluff is recovered, packed into bales and sold back to diaper producers for less than 75% of virgin roll pulp price.

"We take in diapers from almost every major producer," said Mr. Hillman, "and most of our customers are East Coast manufacturers of baby diapers and adult incontinence products." He added that there are currently no applications in paper making and other industries because of the superabsorbent still inherent in the pulp material.

The system is successfull for several reasons, explained Mr. Hillman. "Our customers are getting immediate shipment of off-quality rejects without warehousing or repeated handling, 100% of rejects are completely destroyed in a secure environment and they experience a significant cost savings results, currently more than $175/ton," he said. He also stressed that the pulp recovered is not second rate material, but top quality. Customers must only invest in a bale feeder to enable them to feed the pulp into their system.

Once the pulp is recovered, approximately 35% of the diaper is still left over. Keystone has also found markets for these materials, which consist of plastic film and balls of entangled cellulose fiber that will not pass through the separating screens. Keystone initially warehoused the material until appropriate end uses were determined; Mr. Hillman now reports several target markets. "A major market has opened up in the casket mattress market, where the superabsorbent comes in handy for absorbing body fluids." Other areas include construction wood for picnic benches, fence posts and marina boat docks.
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Title Annotation:Keystone Recycling
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:The compostable diaper: an opportunity for disposable diaper manufacturers.
Next Article:National Felt regaining ground in nonwovens.

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