Wellsville Hundreds of Lawrence area residents save newspapers for recycling each week without giving much thought about what happens after the papers leave town.
Chances are the newspapers will be dumped into a warehouse at Central Fiber Corp., a Wellsville company that recycles 1,500 to 2,500 tons of newsprint and other paper every month.
The company accepts newspapers, magazines and cardboard, and pays about $5 a ton, said Dennis Kichler, recycling division manager. The warehouse can hold up to around 1,000 tons or 50 semi-truck loads of paper, and Kichler has seen it completely filled.
Soon after arriving at the plant, the paper goes through one of three recycling processes and ends up as a marketable product.
The first product developed by the company was cellulose insulation, Kichler said. Papers get tossed into a hopper, shredded and treated with a chemical solution to make the mixture fire retardant before getting bagged and heat sealed.
"Cellulose insulation is actually cheaper and 10 times the product of fiberglass," Kichler said.
THE PRODUCT, "Shelter Shield," is certified by CISCP, an insulation trade organization, and is an approved Class 1 building material, he said. Unlike synthetic insulation, such as fiberglass, it carries no health hazard labels.
"It takes less energy to manufacture and consumes a considerable amount of recyclable waste," Kichler said, adding that insulation for a 1,500-square-foot area keeps a ton of newspapers from ending up in a landfill.
The Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 mandated that all government purchases of building materials include those made with the highest percentage of recycled materials, said Kichler. "Cellulose beats them all," he said.
Another conveyer line at Central Fiber transforms old newspapers into lawn and garden products.
Kichler said the company produces "Shake and Rake," a lawn patch kit, which includes fertilizer, grass seed and mulch, which is produced from recycled paper. A variation of the product features wildflower seeds instead of grass.
The mulch is green and looks sort of like clumps of grass. "It biodegrades into the ground and as the grass grows, it tacks the grass into the ground and helps prevent erosion," Kichler said.
ANOTHER product manufactured at the plant is "Second Nature" hydroseeding mulch made from regenerated wood fiber. Kichler said Central Fiber distributes the mulch across the country and overseas, mainly for use along highways.
The third line at the plant recycles paper into cellulose fibers, which are used in a broad range of products, Kichler said.
Ravi Bhaskar, Central Fiber technical director, conducts research to develop new uses for the Cencel fibers produced at the plant. "The biggest growth is in industrial development," he said, adding that about 80 percent of the plant's fibers go into asphalt roof coatings.
Other applications of the recycled newspaper fibers include sealants, adhesives, tennis court coatings, rubber mats, molded rubber compounds and textured paints.
Bhaskar said the cellulose fiber costs much less than Kevlar, a glass fiber. "I think we're on the cutting edge of technology in this particular area," he said.
Another use for the fiber currently under study is a fiber-reinforced daily covering to be used at sanitary landfills, said Bhaskar.
He said landfill operators cover the work areas each night with about 6 inches of soil.
"There is a considerable amount of interest in covering with something that takes less than 6 inches to conserve landfill space," he said.
The product, which would be sprayed onto the landfill, foams up and hardens to about an eighth of an inch.
CENTRAL FIBER opened in 1984 in Edgerton, and moved to Wellsville in 1987. The company has expanded from a staff of three to about 75 employees.
"We've grown quite a bit and hope to grow even further," Kichler said.
However, he said, consumers must use recycled goods if recyclers such as Central Fiber are to stay in business.
"If they don't put recycled oil in their cars, put cellulose insulation in their attics, buy recycled plastic, if people don't use recycled goods, we're just spinning our wheels," said Kichler.