JUNE 2010
                                        

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Phoenix Technologies
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 distances.

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.”