Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate” may not have dedicated his life to plastics, but it worked out well for William Murray, the Lincoln native named president of Teknor Apex Co. last month. If the world is going to continue to rely on plastics in the future, the Pawtucket polymer technology company and leading U.S. maker of garden hoses is working on the compounds of the future.
Specifically, Teknor Apex is working on bio-plastics, which don’t require petroleum, including biodegradable plastics, which break down instead of piling up in landfills or the ocean.
The company has 12 facilities on three continents and its Rhode Island facility employs 400 people in research, finance and manufacturing.
ng>PBN: In 2010, with the economy still slow, Teknor bought a Dutch company called Sarlink. How has that worked out and what is new at Teknor since then?
MURRAY: Sarlink was our last big investment and they have absolutely complemented the products of Teknor Apex, giving us a complete suite of thermoplastic materials that serve all major markets. We have continued to globalize, but our base is here in Rhode Island. Our owners are from Rhode Island, I am from Rhode Island and we are here with our R&D, finance, IT, some of which are higher-level jobs right here in Rhode Island. Some of the recent developments that we have gotten into are sustainable materials. We have invested in bio-plastics, where we are making objects out of both biodegradable and bio-sustainable materials.
ng>PBN: How far away are both sustainable and biodegradable plastics from being commercially viable?
MURRAY: That technology is continuing to evolve at this point. The way we got into it was by making a deal with a company called Cerestech out of Canada [in 2008] and that got us into using thermoplastic starches in plastics. Since then we have continued to expand that technology into many other kinds of bio-plastics. … As we look out 10 to 20 years in the marketplace, I think it can have a pretty substantial position in consumer-related materials, especially disposable things like plates and cups and knives.