BC-based North West Rubber celebrates 50 years of innovation ...

At first glance, tire recycling in Canada may appear to be merely a budding industry.  But delve a little deeper and you’ll discover an industry long in the making.  Today, pioneers are emerging as the leading force behind a tidal change in tire recycling.

North West Rubber Ltd. (NWR) is a prime example of Canada’s role in driving change.  With a presence in both British Columbia and Ontario, the company is a significant consumer of the recycled tire materials processed in both provinces, making it a formidable contributor to the solution for scrap tires.

From its beginning in 1968, NWR has used recycled rubber to create its products – and according to NWR, since recycling was not common in the 1960s, they were faced with many wary purchasers.  For that reason, the company initially chose to downplay the recycling aspect of its products.  My how times have changed!

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, NWR picked up buffings (derived from grinding the outer layer of tires in preparation for retreading) and scrap tires from the Pitt Meadows area of British Columbia where they started out.  They ground up the materials and manufactured rubber mats which were purchased for use in horse and dairy stalls, ice rinks, gyms, and pick-up truck beds.

Today, the world-wide markets that NWR serves include agriculture, recreational flooring, commercial flooring, playground, pet, construction, industrial, traffic safety, marine, solar, manufacturing, and landscaping.  Its products are marketed under the trademarks of North West Rubber, Red Barn (Agricultural), SportFloor (Recreational Flooring), FitFloor, Black Armour, Surehoof (Horse Trailer), and PlayFall (Playground).

NWR’s recycled rubber products are LEED certified.  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most prevalent green building certification program in the world.

Arnie Melissen, currently a NWR Director and Shareholder, started with the company in 1969.  After 40 years as its President and CEO, Arnie turned over the reins to Leighton Friesen with the goal of gaining a fresh perspective on growing the operation. This forward-thinking move resulted in access to many previously unrealized markets for NWR’s products.

“If I look at how we made mats back then, it took 4 hours to make 5 mats in one press.  Even to this day, we’re pushing the limits to see if we can do it quicker and quicker.  The fact that you need to keep innovating just to keep progressing is very important.  Otherwise, you get stagnant” said Roy DeHaan, NWR’s Technical Director.

Over the years, NWR has grown from a small, regional manufacturer of crude rubber products, to a leading, global recycled rubber manufacturer.  In addition to its headquarters and a manufacturing operation in Abbotsford, British Columbia, in 2010 the company opened a new facility in Brantford, Ontario, which has since undergone many expansions.  In 2001 they also started producing speciality virgin rubber flooring in Asia.

In June, NWR announced that it will be further expanding by opening a recycled rubber mat manufacturing facility in Houston, Texas in 2019.  “There are several factors which drew us to the south-central US:  it gives us the ability to better serve our customers in geographic proximity to this location, it allows us to develop new markets that we have not serviced in the past, and it mitigates some of the risks associated with changing regulations in the Ontario market where we operate another one of our facilities.  This is an exciting new chapter in our company’s 50 year story!” said President and CEO, Leighton Friesen.

Want more information?

Check out NWR’s 50th Anniversary Video, which details the company’s humble beginnings up to its global presence today.

For information on the Canadian scrap tire recycling programs in which NWR participates, please visit the websites of Tire Stewardship BC (TSBC) and Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS).