JUNE 2011
                                        

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Vexor Technology
Joe Waters • 877-721-9773

Joe Waters, one of the co-owners of Vexor Technology, is pretty clear that the company is not a waste hauler. “We are a nonhazardous industrial waste processing company,” he explained. Vexor picks up industrial and commercial waste, but instead of separating it for recycling or hauling it to landfills, the company uses it to make a coal-replacement fuel.

The company was founded in 1999 by Waters and the father-and-son duo of Fred and Phil Stapf. According to Waters, the three “grew up in the hazardous waste business” but they decided to use their expertise in handling and tracking hazardous materials and apply that to the nonhazardous waste business.

The three had worked together since the early 1980s. “My background was chemical,” Waters said, and Phil Stapf owned a hazardous waste business. When they decided to start their own business, they were experts in the hazardous waste business, but they wanted to move into something broader but still related. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Waters said. Non hazardous waste seemed to be the perfect fit.

While there is a very narrow range of hazardous waste materials, Waters said that the nonhazardous waste stream has “virtually no limitations” from dusty powdered materials to small containers of lipstick to bottles of shampoo – and all of those offer opportunities for better handling.

Waters said they decided to run the company with the “tighter best-management practices” that was required for hazardous waste. He said that while those requirements don’t apply to nonhazardous waste, “generators of nonhazardous waste still have liability” and that the quality control that Vexor uses ensures the waste is handled correctly and can be tracked if necessary.

The company started with just the three owners and has since grown to 40 employees with a national scope. While much of the business is focused on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast near the company’s Ohio headquarters, there are customers in the Midwest and as far as Oregon and Texas. “It goes back to customer liability,” Waters said. Once a customer sees how Vexor manages the material, they don’t mind the extra transportation costs to let Vexor handle the waste from more distant operations.

While there is rail access to the plant, most of the material is handled by truck with Vexor trucks handling the outbound material, and common carriers bringing material in. The operation is on a 5.5 acre property, and all of the material is processed indoors.

The mantra for the company is “landfill avoidance and sustainability.” Besides making the coal-replacement fuels, the company deals handles product recall materials that can be recycled. For example, Vexor might empty bottles of shampoo and recycle the plastic. Waters said that traditional plastic recyclers wouldn’t take filled bottles, so previously a product like that would have ended up in a landfill.

But the primary focus is the waste-to-energy part of the business. Waters said that for some companies, waste-to-energy often means that the waste product simply incinerated. But at Vexor, the waste is turned into “Vexor engineered fuel,” a commodity that is sold.

Waters said that the product looks a lot like mulch, but it’s not meant for spreading around your flowers. The reason it’s so fluffy is that the coal used in cement kilns is pulverized before use so it can be blown in. The Vexor fuel is designed to be a direct replacement for that pulverized coal, but with less environmental impact. The Vexor fuel has no mercury and less sulfur and chlorine than coal, so it produces less pollution than coal.

Unlike waste that is incinerated simply to generate power, the Vexor material is a very specific mix that mimics coal’s characteristics. But that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic conversion for the plants that want to use it. To be able to burn any alternative fuel, plants need to have air permits and go through testing to make sure the alternative fuel burns clean enough.

Despite regulations, Waters said that he expects the waste-to-fuel market to grow “and I think it’s going to grow rapidly.” For cement companies, lime companies, and energy companies, “it’s a big deal,” he said, and he expects Vexor to be in that market. “We are a leader in the solid waste to fuel industry. We have a legitimate commodity.”

Very little of what comes in to Vexor ends up in landfills, but some materials are recycled. “A lot of industrial waste comes into our plant in steel drums,” Waters said. “Those are cleaned, crushed, and sent for recycling.”

Waters said that one of the most satisfying parts of his job is “to be able to excite the customer about new options.” Many of his customers were used to the idea that waste ended up in landfills or was incinerated. “Engineered fuel is a new and big story for them,” he said.