Every year, about 600 million new shipping pallets are introduced across the U.S. Two billion are circulating at any given time and, of those, 90 percent are wood.
The figures are the kinds of Trivial Pursuit facts that Warren Kruger, as chief executive of the Tulsa-based recyclable plastic pallet manufacturer Greystone Logistics, can tick off instantly.
“Our biggest competition is the status quo,” said Kruger, who holds some 6.25 million of Greystone's 26 million shares. “Clients say ‘that' (wood pallets) is the way we've always done it.”
But plastic pallets, which can cost up to $50, last 10 times longer than $8 wood ones, he said, and — instead of going into a landfill when they're no longer usable — can be recycled and turned in for a reimbursement like pop or beer bottles.
Apparently, at least some shippers are hearing the message.
In this year's Oklahoma Inc., Greystone (trading symbol GLGI), which once suffered deep losses, is among Oklahoma's top companies traded over the counter. The manufacturer had a one-year gain on stocks and dividends of 14.3 percent, an 18 percent increase in revenues and gain in earnings per share of 333.3 percent.
For its fiscal year ended May 31, it had $24 million in revenue, and just short of $100 million in the past five years, Kruger said.
Greystone's biggest client is MillerCoors, to which it has sent more than 4 million pallets in the last decade, he said. For Omaha Steaks, the company makes a special kind of pallet, which withstands subzero temperatures, and similarly accommodates drug, food and other companies with pallets for moving loads up to 5,000 pounds and static, to 30,000 pounds, he said.
Greystone also leases pallets and sells proprietary blends of liquid plastic resins, from mostly melted down milk and detergent bottles, to other manufacturers — such as Advanced Drainage Systems, Baughman Tile Co. and plastic chair makers. Resin sales account for about 16 percent of its revenues, Kruger said.
Established in 1968 as a shell company for other ventures, Greystone acquired a closed plastic company in Dallas and did mostly research and development until 2003, when it paid $12.5 million to acquire a plastic pallet manufacturing facility in Bettendorf, Iowa. There, about 100 employees work around the clock to make 1,500 pallets a day.
Kruger since has bought the two 60,000-square-foot buildings and leased them back to the company. There are eight production lines, which cost about $2 million each, he said.
John Brown, a colleague of Kruger's from Montreal who sold plastic injection molds and other assets to Greystone, said the company faces a kind of paradigm challenge.
“People think recyclable products should cost less when they should cost more,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Greystone's next goal is to hit $100 million in annual sales, Kruger said.
“We want our multiple shareholders to reap some revenue at some point,” he said.