An Elkhorn company is building a 153,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art recycling complex in Whitewater that will, in part, turn glass from used cathode ray tubes into ceramic products, including floor tiles.
DP Electronic Recycling’s new $12.5 million facility, which will be located in the Whitewater University Technology Park on the city’s southeast side, will employ about 120 people, president and CEO Dale Helgeson said.
The company headquarters and current operations — where electronics equipment, including computers, servers and networking equipment, is recycled — will move to the new Whitewater facility from their current Elkhorn location, along with 16 employees. The remainder of the 120 employees at the new complex will be new hires, Helgeson said. The current facility opened in 2010.
The CRT recycling part of the business will operate multiple shifts, and the electronics recycling operation will operate one shift. “But there will be room to grow,” Helgeson said.
The new facility will help to reduce a large waste stream that currently is not being addressed, said Helgeson, who referred to a UW-Whitewater study two years ago that estimated 1 billion pounds of CRT glass is in storage waiting for proper disposal. Cathode ray tubes are specialized vacuum tubes used often in computer monitors.
“It’s very difficult to recycle. The (Environmental Protection Agency) banned it from landfills. Our process will use everything together and encapsulate it so it is safe,” Helgeson said.
Helgeson said new technology being brought in from Germany for electronic shredding and sorting of commodities will be 20 percent more efficient than what is currently available in the United States.
The new facility will serve as a template for others Helgeson wants to eventually build in the U.S. and internationally.
“If we do a Las Vegas facility,” Helgeson said, “we will look at building Spanish roofing tile.” Such a product would be stronger, more durable and last longer than regular clay tiles, he said.
“There are some definite advantages to our products. It’s self-glazing. The color goes all the way through. It’s not porous. It’s very strong. It’s temperature resistant, hot and cold. It actually has an R (insulation) value because it has a high percentage of glass,” he said.
Construction of the new facility will begin in spring 2016. The company plans to be fully operational within 18 months after it breaks ground. Once operating, the facility will be able to recycle 53 million pounds of CRT glass a year, Helgeson said.
Helgeson started his company six years ago, and it started researching CRT glass recycling 4½ years ago, including product testing and gaining regulatory approvals.
“It’s been a long road,” Helgeson said.
Helgeson has been tenacious in getting through all the regulatory hurdles with the EPA and Department of Natural Resources before then, working out the project’s financing, said Jeff Knight, chairman of Whitewater’s Community Development Authority.
Knight said 125 acres of the city’s business park was set aside a few years back for the Whitewater University Technology Park. So far, the Innovation Center — a joint effort of the city, its Community Development Authority and UW-Whitewater — is the only building in the park.
“This will be the first new industry in the technology park,” Knight said.
The value of the new complex is huge for Whitewater, Knight said, citing jobs and the exposure the city will get from being home to the expanding company’s world headquarters.
The project is also located in the city’s tax increment financing district, and additional taxes raised from the facility will help pay off the district, he said.