Malaysian Company Plans N.M. Tire Recycling Plant

Green Rubber Global invests $30 million in what it claims is the world's first commercially viable, waste-free way to recycle tires.

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - A Malaysian company plans to invest $30 million in a unique tire recycling plant that will be located in Gallup.

Green Rubber Global, which also will open its headquarters in Albuquerque, says it has invented the world's first commercially viable, waste-free way to recycle tires, the Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story Wednesday.

Green Rubber Global is a subsidiary of Petra Group, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It has reached an agreement with Gallup under which the city will build a recycling plant on city-owned land east of town, then will lease the plant back to the company over 10 years, said Rick Homans, who will become Green Rubber's president next month.

Homans recently resigned as director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to rejoin the private sector, but at the time he would not name the company. Homans was state economic development secretary from 2003 until taking the spaceport job in May.

As president of Green Rubber, he will be responsible for the company's expansion in America. Green Rubber will employ 140 people in Gallup and 15 in Albuquerque once its facilities are in operation, Economic Development Secretary Fred Mondragon said. Gov. Bill Richardson's office said Wednesday that the operation is expected to provide 80 new manufacturing jobs at first, at wages of $15 an hour.

About 1 billion tires worldwide end up as waste each year, nearly 300 million of them in the United States. Most go into landfills or are burned, practices that are coming under more environmental scrutiny.

''This is the world's greatest environmental concern,'' said Vinod Sekhar, founder and president of Petra Group. The annual tire waste includes 1.5 billion gallons of fossil fuel, he said.

The Gallup plant will use Petra Group's DeLink, a patented chemical process the company said can turn old tires into usable rubber that costs less than new rubber.

Recycling tires has been limited to shredding or crumbling because its hard to break the vulcanization process that links rubber molecules into larger particles to make rubber more impervious to weather. Shredding or crumbling produces a low-quality compound used in such products as floor mats.

Petra said rubber created by its process can be revulcanized to use in a full range of rubber products, including tires. Sekhar said the process, created by his father, chemist B.C. Sekhar, creates no waste or emissions. B.C. Sekhar died last September.

Petra's Web site said the technology is a mechano-chemical process that can be done using standard rubber processing machines.

Vinod Sekhar said he first visited New Mexico and Gov. Bill Richardson at the urging of Vern Raburn, chief executive officer of Albuquerque-based Eclipse Aviation. The state Economic Development Department, Gallup and other agencies then began trying to recruit the company.

The Economic Development Department plans to ask state lawmakers for $3 million in infrastructure appropriations next year as part of an incentive package for the company.

Sekhar, who met Raburn at a CEO conference in Singapore, said he was impressed by New Mexico's efforts to become a leader in green technology.

One of Green Rubber's financial backers is actor Mel Gibson, who was in New Mexico this week with company officials.

He said the tire recycling technology intrigued him because domestic landfills are rejecting tires in increasing numbers, and the tires are shipped to often-poor countries willing to take the waste in exchange for money.

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