Bob Deardurff • 419-353-7738
Bob Deardurff has been president and CEO of
Phoenix Technologies for the past five years, but he was “involved
in the inception of the company” nearly 18 years ago.
Before Phoenix Technologies existed, Deardurff worked at Plastics
Technologies, Inc., which was founded by Dr. Tom Brady in 1985
to engineer and develop polyethylene terephthalate (PET) products.
Deardurff called Plastics Technologies “the catalyst of Phoenix,”
although the two are now separate companies.
“We saw a need for recycling,” Deardurff said, and the 90’s was
the right time to seize the opportunity to launch a PET recycling
company. While at Plastics Technologies, Deardurff wrote the
business plan for the company that became Phoenix Technologies.
He has been involved with Phoenix ever since, beginning with
overall management of the new company before becoming president.
Deardurff’s involvement with PET goes back even further. When
he was in college, he interned in the plastics field and said,
“I really enjoyed it. It was an exciting area at that time. It
was all brand new.” It also introduced him to other people in
the field. “It gets down to relationships.”
Unlike many other recycling companies that have expanded their
product lines to cover a broad spectrum of material, Phoenix
focuses on recycling just one thing: PET.
Phoenix employs about 60 people at its single location in Bowling
Green, Ohio, but the company has some international ties as well,
with “technology that has been licensed in Australia.” While
Phoenix doesn’t manage or run businesses in Australia, Dearduff
said that “an occasional visit” is sometimes necessary.
The PET that Phoenix handles is all post-consumer material from
curbside collections. Deardurff said that they get most of the
material from “reasonable shipping distances in the United States,”
but what those reasonable distances are depends on the current
markets. At times, Phoenix brings in material from much greater
Phoenix produces three major products. The original product is
a non-food-grade plastic for use in detergent jugs, soap bottles,
and similar products. And in the late 90’s the company perfected
a process that allowed them to sell material that could go into
the manufacture of food-grade plastic products.
The newest product is material that can be used in food-grade
products at a 100 percent concentration. Deardurff said that
the new product is clear or light blue “what you’d expect to
see in your standard water bottle.”
In the time that Deardurff has been president of Phoenix, he
said the recycling stream has become more complex, with new additions
in the finished plastics that have to be accounted for when recycling
those materials. “It continues to require a strong eye towards
quality,” he said, and that a continuing challenge is “yield
coming in versus high quality material going out.”
To feed the recycling process, Phoenix buys material from 10-15
different suppliers each month, and the material that goes out
is ready for use by injection molding companies. “We’re focused
on being a resin manufacturer.” Deardurff said.
He is also very concerned about the carbon footprint of the entire
process, and is concentrating on new technologies that would
allow smaller plastics recyclers to pull materials from a smaller
geographical area, thus reducing the shipping costs. To that
end, Phoenix is looking at licensing its technologies in the
States, much as it licensed its technology in Australia.
Deardurff said that part of the company’s success has been “recognizing
that relationships are key,” and maintaining those good relationships
in the industry. But the company’s success also relies on technology,
particularly in an industry where the incoming products are constantly
evolving as manufacturers change their formulas.
Deardurff is confident that Phoenix is staying ahead of the technology
curve, and he said the company is dedicated to “advancing the
value of recycling through technology.”