Article originally published in the Longview News-Journal.
Manufacturers need to dispose of industrial waste, and they need to do it safely. That need has created opportunities for companies such as Alpha Omega Recycling, which has been in business in Longview for 30 years.
Manufacturers ranging in size from mom-and-pop to Fortune 500 companies and from all over the world pay Alpha Omega to take in and process the waste, President Mark Wayne said.
The company, located on 8 acres in a rural area at 315 Whatley Road, uses chemical processes to extract valuable metals and in turn sells them to mining companies and stainless steel manufacturers.
Plant Manager Bobby Pointer said the company had 20 employees when he started there as an operator 26 years ago. It has grown to 50 employees, said Wayne, who has worked at Alpha Omega for 10 years.
Pointer attributes the growth to the company’s ability to “synergize” — put things together that work — and produce metal ore substitutes Alpha Omega sells.
The plant processes from 20 tons to 30 tons of metal-containing waste daily and produces 40 tons per week of a nickel blend, 20 tons per week of a copper blend and 20 tons per month of zinc, Pointer said.
“We are kind of like a chemical scrap yard,” Pointer said.
A New Stake
The company is on the verge of major growth with the recent announcement that Amlon Environmental Services LLC of New York City had acquired a majority stake.
“We hope to be able to grow the facility: more material, increased handling and plant capabilities, ability to take more materials in, increase their customer base,” said Lee Lasher, chief executive officer of Amlon Environmental.
He said his company would benefit with the addition of the plant.
“We were traditionally a trading, marketing and environmental management company,” Lasher said. “Now, we have our own plant.”
Alpha Omega in turn will benefit from receiving more waste to be recycled and from Amlon’s outside sales team, Pointer said.
Meanwhile, the employees at Alpha Omega — Greek words that mean the beginning and the end — go about their duties. The recycling crew works in a 50,000-square-foot metal building while the office staff occupies a converted house that predates the plant’s opening.
The plant takes in liquid and solid waste that arrives in 55-gallon drums, 250-gallon totes and 2,000-pound sacks that tankers and tractor-trailers deliver.
From five to eight trucks arrive during a typical workday and come by appointment only, Pointer said. The containers stay in a storage area while awaiting processing, generally within 30 days, Wayne said.
It takes about 30 days to process the waste into ore substitutes that Alpha Omega sells, according to Pointer.
The process starts with placing the waste in vats and using acids to dissolve the metals, Pointer said. Vats range in size from 500 to 5,000 gallons.
The next steps are oxidation (exposing the waste to chemicals or the air), neutralization (adding alkaline to the slurry to adjust the pH), filtration (pumping the material into a filter press to capture the solids), drying and blending.
Alpha Omega sends samples to a local company for assaying (analyzing the ore) before the recycled metals are sold. Pointer said the products are packaged in 2,000-pound super sacks.
“Once we extract the targeted metals, we are left with a nonhazardous by byproduct for disposal” in a landfill, Pointer said.
Referring to mining companies, Pointer said, “What we can supply is most of the time better than what (ore) they mine.”
Pointer, who was born in Longview and graduated from Longview High School in 1986, said employees have worked for Alpha Omega Recycling an average of 15 years.
“Most of us grew up together,” he said.
A relative newcomer, Casey Landreneau, director of environmental compliance, said she joined Alpha Omega four years ago and enjoys what she does.
“I like the fact that it is a close-knit workforce,” said Landreneau, who has worked in her field for 20 years. “I like the fact that it is an ever-changing work atmosphere. You never do the same thing twice because of the materials we take in. It’s always a learning opportunity.”