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Less filling: Balcones resources helps a diaper manufacturer avoid sending manufacturing waste to the landfill. (Facility Profile).

The American shopping public absorbs a significant number of disposable diapers each year, including those intended for infants as well as for incontinent adults. Kimberly-Clark Corp., Dallas, is one of the leading manufacturers of disposable diapers, with several plants in the Southwest that not only make finished products, but also generate waste materials.

The cellulose and plastic wastes did not have an established recycling market, but Kimberly-Clark worked with Balcones Resources, Farmers Branch, Texas, to develop a solution.

A BURNING ANSWER. Balcones Resources, a large-tonnage recycler of high-grade paper in the Southwest, ultimately built a new plant in Little Rock, Ark., that makes alternative fuel cubes from the diaper-making scrap.

The new Fuel Technology Division of Balcones Resources was built in cooperation with Kimberly-Clark to help the company meet an objective of eliminating the landfilling of its manufacturing wastes at a significant cost savings.

"What we've done is develop an efficient, economically viable, dean-burning fuel made entirely from recycled material that is an alternative to burning coal or wood," says Steve Stone, a Balcones Resources vice president working out of the Little Rock plant.

The recycled fuel product is manufactured at the new $2.5 million facility that features sizable slow-speed, high-torque shredders, conveyer lines and cubing machines. Material is shredded to a consistent size and then placed in a "cuber," or extrusion machine, where fuel cubes are extruded under pressure.

The fuel cube, a block measuring roughly 1 inch by 2 inches, is marketed by Balcones as burning cleaner than coal at a comparable British thermal units (BTU) output, but priced more comparably to wood.

"Think of it this way," Stone says. "One truckload of our fuel cubes is equivalent to three truckloads of wood fuel when you compare the BTU values."

The fuel cube, the first product developed by Balcones' Little Rock-based Fuel Technology Division, is being sold and marketed to industrial users who operate large boilers, such as paper mills or electrical generating plants.

Stone says that for years recycling companies have been baling similar material and selling it as an alternative fuel, but the results were sometimes less than desirable, and the large bales could be difficult to handle.

The challenge was to find the right "mix" of material that could be compressed into manageable size cubes--roughly the size of a lump of coal--that would burn as hot but cleaner.

For three years, Balcones researched and tested processes at its Little Rock plant to create the right mix of materials, as well as worked to determine the proper shredding and compression processes, before finally developing what it feels is the right combination.

THE END MARKET. The material for the fuel cube includes manufacturing waste from several Kimberly-Clark facilities in the southern U.S. that generate materials that are generally considered difficult to recycle. In some cases, the scrap includes large rolls of material from which some of Kimberly-Clark's consumer products are made that have been deemed damaged or are unsuitable for use.

Formulating the fuel cubes cleared the first hurdle, but more work remained. "Of course, having the ability to produce a viable and economical alternative fuel is only half the challenge," says Stone. "You then have to sell it."

An initial customer was found in the form of a large paper mill in southwest Arkansas that was waiting for just such an economical, alternative fuel. The paper mill is currently using approximately 60 tons of fuel cubes per day.

Stone says Balcones Resources' Little Rock plant is currently producing about 1,600 tons of fuel cubes per month, but has the capacity to produce twice that amount per month should the materials generated and end markets merit it.

In addition to the higher BTU values (an average range of from 12,400 to 13,500 BTUs per pound), the company has several selling points it lists to potential buyers of the cubes, including:

* Consistent moisture levels, BTU values, purity and quality

* Competitive prices with wood fuel on a cost per BTU basis

* Stable pricing unaffected by other unstable markets

* Reduced transportation and handling costs

* Compatibility with most fuel feed systems

* Comparability with President Bush's National Energy Policy, which endorses the use of alternative energy supplies to diversify the U.S. energy portfolio.

The company says the cubes, made from 60 percent non-chlorinated petroleum derivatives and 40 percent cellulostic fibers from wood pulp, offer an environmental solution for business that is cost-efficient and dependable.

In addition to Balcones Fuel Technology, the company also operates its established recycling operations in Texas and the Balcones Innovations Division in Little Rock. The Little Rock operations employ 30 people.

"Balcones Innovations is something of a research and development `think tank' where we look for bulk materials traditionally hard to recycle, like the material from diaper manufacturing, that otherwise would end up in the landfill," says Stone. "We develop an alternative use for this material. From there we try to define and build a market for those products."

Currently, Balcones Innovations produces dairy towels made from some of the same material as the fuel cubes. The towels are much like a large paper towel that are used in the dairy industry for cleaning dairy cows when they are milked. The division also is producing absorbent products for containing oil, grease and general spills. The absorbent products can be customized to a customer's specific applications.

Balcones Resources is a privately held corporation with operations in Austin and Dallas, Texas; Little Rock; and Nashville, Tenn.
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Comment:Less filling: Balcones resources helps a diaper manufacturer avoid sending manufacturing waste to the landfill. (Facility Profile).
Author:Williams, Judy
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:912
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