Cedrite Technologies Inc. has a way to save forests and landfill space by recycling railroad ties. The company grinds up the ties, adds a resin, and squeezes and bakes the mix into new ties. A wooden railroad tie lasts anywhere from two years to a century, depending on the weather and other forces acting on it. Each year, 15 million of the nation's 1 billion ties are replaced.
Of the old ties, only a fifth are reusable for landscaping or other purposes. The railroads must pay to dispose of the rest as solid waste. To make the new ties, meanwhile, trees at least 75 years old must be felled.
Railroads not only give Cedrite their used ties, they deliver them free to the company's plant in Kansas City, Kan. They get to buy one Cedrite tie for every two they bring in. The price of a recycled tie is 30 percent more than for wood, but it's far stronger and lasts longer.
Newly installed drying equipment will soon have the Cedrite plant operating at its design capacity of 600,000 ties per year. The company plans to open four or five more plants in North America, ultimately capturing 20 percent of the market for new ties.
Interest in the process has also come from Africa, India, Australia, and the Soviet Union, according to executives of Cedrite's parent company, Harmon Industries in Blue Springs, Mo.