Baltimore company aims to 'clean up' on garbage New plant will produce compost and recycle

April 21, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

An article in yesterday's Sun about recycling misspelled the name of Browning-Ferris Industries.

The Sun regrets the errors.

After three years of operating at a loss, F & E Resource Systems Technology Inc. is ready to clean up.

The developer of recycling and composting facilities is preparing to open a $42 million plant in Curtis Bay that will have about 75 employees and will process 500 tons of garbage a day.

The plant, scheduled to be finished in winter, was dedicated yesterday.

"Everything we're doing has been proven. It just hasn't been assembled," said Ronald W. Pickett, president and chief executive officer. "We're marrying proven processes."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Long-term financing of $35.5 million was arranged through tax-exempt bonds through the Maryland Energy Financing Administration, and Chrysler Capital Corp. invested $7 million as a limited partner.

Browning-Ferring Industries, one of the largest private garbage haulers in the state, has signed a 15-year agreement to deliver nearly 500 tons of garbage each day to the plant at 5800 Chemical Road.

Although the plant is not scheduled to open until winter, the infusion of development money has made the company profitable for the first time in years. The Baltimore-based company posted earnings of $511,044, or 10 cents a share, and revenues of $1.8 million in 1991. The price of its stock, which NASDAQ started listing in January, is climbing slowly.

Although the Baltimore facility will be the company's first recycling and compost plant, F & E's history in Baltimore goes back more than 100 years to when it was known as Flynn & Emerich.

In the early years, the company made a variety of industrial products, including coal furnace stokers. After World War II, F & E turned to the manufacturing of waste incinerators until that business declined amid concerns about air pollution.

Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the company stayed afloat by making spare parts for its incinerators. The company went public in 1984, and its owners tried to steer it toward the recycling business, but without much success.

Mr. Pickett bought a controlling interest in the company about five years ago but did not have much more luck than his predecessors until 1989, when he had an "almost religious experience" touring a Florida plant where he saw trash turned into compost.

"I could not believe it," said Mr. Pickett. "It was a spiritual thing. It's a leap of faith."

Mr. Pickett immediately revised the plans for the company. Instead of burning the trash that could not be recycled, it would turn most of the non-recyclables into compost.

The Baltimore project will be the first in the country to use a process pioneered in Europe that turns waste into soil conditioner by composting it in special concrete vats.

Garbage brought to the plant will be mechanically spread on conveyor belts. Workers will hand-sort paper, plastic and metals, which will be baled and sold to recyclers. Non-recyclable items will go to the city landfill. The remaining organic waste will be composted and sold to farmers, landscapers and others.

"I'm optimistic about this company's chances," said Stephan Schweich, an analyst with Alex. Brown & Sons. "It's important the facility will cover its costs without relying on end-market sales."

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