East Mesa firm’s new product biodegrades synthetic rubber

By Maria Polletta The Republic | azcentral.com Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:08 AM

East Mesa company ENSO Plastics has developed a treatment for synthetic-rubber products that will enable quicker decomposition in landfills.

ENSO RESTORE RL, being pioneered by a handful of manufacturers, launched this summer after a roughly two-year research-and-development process.

ENSO, which primarily focuses on mitigating the environmental impacts of plastics, took a detour into rubber technology after receiving multiple requests from industry players looking to make their products more environmentally friendly, according to Teresa Clark, ENSO’s vice president of product development.

“Plastics aren’t the only thing that cause a problem,” Clark said. “A lot of that (rubber) stuff gets thrown into a landfill, because it’s not recycled. For example, there’s some recycling of tires, but the majority of tires are still just disposed of.”

ENSO RESTORE comes in pellet, powder and liquid forms. The treatment is applied to products while they are being manufactured, but its effects don’t kick in until after the products are thrown away.

“Say someone is making a rubber band. The huge value of it is it doesn’t impact the use of the product — it’s still going to be just as stretchy, and it’s still going to last just as long,” Clark said. “The microorganisms in the waste environment just recognize it differently than the traditional, non-treated rubber later on.”

An independent lab test showed certain rubber products treated with Restore biodegraded about 17 percent in the first 20 days after disposal, while untreated products didn’t biodegrade at all, according to the company.

The biggest commercial user of RESTORE RL so far is an international manufacturer of rubber-gloves, according to Clark. Though she declined to name names, she said makers of rubber bands and products with “elastic-type fibers” also are interested in using the product, though most are still in the trial stage.

“While the plastic industry has had a lot of pressure to move environmental, the rubber industry, for the most part, has kind of flown under that radar,” she said. “They’re beginning to realize it’s just as important for all of our materials to be environmentally sensitive.”

Read the original AZCentral.com article: http://www.azcentral.com/community/mesa/articles/20131018east-mesa-firms-new-productbiodegrades-synthetic-rubber.html