Innovative Business, Family Style

MEET POLYCO

Founded in 1994, Polyco entered the asphalt market as a small, family-owned business with big goals. Tom Nichols, our founder, recognized a need for better-engineered roofing and, eventually, paving solutions that embraced a green model of stability. Starting with nothing more than an idea on a napkin, $400, and a company of one, he realized he would have to build a team to achieve these goals. 

Being a family-owned business, employees are treated like family and share similar values. To do this, the leadership team at Polyco created an atmosphere of “togetherness” without silos. Tom Nichols, says, “My passion is people and ideas. Those two things are everything to me.” This inclusive approach to business has continued to this day and encourages growing the younger generation within the company to build its future and foster innovation. 

John Lopez, a legacy team member, was one of Polyco’s first employees. He reflects on his tenure with the company and its remarkable growth, “I came in as an Operator, sharing many hats as the Plant Manager. The company was growing rapidly, and my career did as well. I became a Lead, then Supervisor, and now most recently moved into R&D. You can do anything you put your mind to at Polyco, and the company encourages it. Now, my son works here and is very happy. I am very proud to be part of Polyco. I love this company.” 

Sumer Lucas, Director of Technical Services – Roofing, agreed, “It’s been pretty amazing coming up with Polyco for the last ten years and witnessing the insane amount of growth that’s taking place in the last decade. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to grow and advance with Polyco.”

When asked why she continues to work at Polyco, long-time employee Kaylea LaBee said, “The people. We cherish and rely on each other, creating an environment where we build innovative ideas off one another.”

VP of Marketing and Sales, Sam Nichols, said, “The reason that we’re such an innovative team is that nobody puts as many resources into people, technology, and equipment. This allows us to function differently than most of our competitors.” We do things differently, not just to be different, but because it needs to be better, and when we make things better, good things happen.” Tom adds, “At the core of everything Polyco believes is to make good things happen. A focus on what is possible and why it CAN be done. This leads to a culture of invention and innovation not equaled by our peers.” 

With this philosophy, Polyco has led the way in innovation with high-performance, sustainable asphalt solutions for the roofing and paving industry. “To me,” Tom said, “…sustainability is the moral obligation of every citizen.” And as we continue to build the best team in the industry leading the charge, Polyco will continue developing technology that propels sustainability for future generations to come.

Polyco makes inroads into Northern California

Pneumatic Roller on California project

For years contractors in California have tried to incorporate used tire rubber into asphalt to extend the life of their roadways but with limited success. Recently, Polyco landed contracts in Northern California to assist with several paving projects powered by our proprietary Rapid Digestion Process (RDP), SigmaBond a revolutionary asphalt that enables hot mix contractors to use more upcycled materials while extending the life of pavements. The results have been resounding.

Are you sure this is rubber? 

With SigmaBond, contractors had no difficulty with the placement of the mat or rake work. They noted that the product wasn’t sticky, was easy to place, contour and compact, and had density values that exceeded target values. They also reported the tensile strength exceeded regular asphalt – the only time they had seen that happen with a rubber mix. Much to their excitement, we overdelivered what was promised. 

Many state contractors still use the dry process which simply adds raw dry tires to the aggregate as a filler. The wet process mixes tire rubber into the process wet at about a 20-25% concentration. The Polyco process digests it into a liquid process allowing more rubber to be added – up to 50%.  

Jeffrey Buscheck, R&D Engineering Manager at the UC Pavement Research Center, believes that “the use of TR-modified asphalt as a tool to improve performance in California dense graded mixes is very exciting as we evolve to balanced mix design (BMD) and emphasize on improving the age and crack resistance of our pavements. We are working on evaluation studies funded by Caltrans and CalRecycle, and so far, the results of this material are very promising.”

The positive feedback kept coming as contractors noted that at any stage of the process of laying the material down, the density of compaction did not change. There was none of the stringing that traditional mixes created. They also successfully used our rubber modified asphalt in a dense graded mix which has not been done before with any other rubber mix.

California is admired for its emphasis on sustainability and offers a welcoming environment for Polyco’s products and technology as decision makers want to move away from dry mixes all together. Our SigmaBond process not only creates a superior, long-lasting road without cracking, but it saves money by cutting out the interlayers of traditional roads. Now contractors can meet the state’s sustainability goals without sacrificing performance. 

SigmaBond Has a California State of Mind

Paving road Construction with SigmaBond in California

A Note from Polyco: We have enjoyed working with independent asphalt consultant Skip Brown, bringing SigmaBond to Northern California. Read more about why he raves about Polyco’s product to his clients. 

My family had an asphalt business for over 70 years, started by my father, so I’ve been in this industry my whole life. I’ve been in the field so long I wore out more than 50 pairs of paving boots! I’ve retired from fieldwork, and now, I consult with clients about the care, maintenance, and proper repair of asphalt pavements. 

I first learned about Polyco’s product when I met Bob Rivers last fall. SigmaBond incorporates tire rubber unlike any other asphalt mixture in the market.

Putting rubber in asphalt has two main benefits: 

  1. The rubber helps the asphalt be flexible, preventing cracking longer than non-rubberized asphalt mixtures.
  2. It offers an alternative to discarding tires, preventing landfills from filling up and reducing toxic fumes from burying or burning scrapped rubber.

Many agencies in California use crumb rubber gap-graded asphalt that has a reduced aggregate structure resulting in a pavement with increased porosity. This type of asphalt works well for California highways as a top layer over dense graded asphalt because it absorbs water and reduces tire-spray. But for roads without adequate structure and cracked dense graded asphalt, absorbed water enters the subgrade resulting in failure of the surface. 

My clients need a rubberized dense graded asphalt pavement which will stay flexible longer—reducing cracking and precluding water from entering the subgrade. This is where SigmaBond performs beyond other asphalt solutions. Polyco achieved this by completely digesting recycled tire rubber and asphalt into a homogeneous liquid state using their proprietary Rapid Digestion Process (RDP)—producing SigmaBond

The proof is in the pavement. Projects paved 5-7 years ago in Southern California that used SigmaBond, still have no cracks reflecting from the underlying cracked pavement.

I’m proud to promote SigmaBond to my clients. Three projects in Northern California have already been awarded that will use SigmaBond—in Granite Bay, Rancho Murieta and Oakdale. With a competitive cost and better performance than other solutions, SigmaBond was a no-brainer for these projects and will be for many more. As I have been known to say, fix the pig; don’t just put lipstick on it.  SigmaBond does that.

MEET THE TEAM – TIM MACHELSKI

meet the team
Headshot of Tim Machelski

With a degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech and over 44 years of operations experience, including building a shingle manufacturing plant from the ground up, Tim Machelski was more than qualified to join Polyco as our new Chief Operating Officer. After spending time as a chemical engineer and learning how manufacturing plants and the people operating the plants function, he redirected his focus to operations. Tim looks forward to bringing this extensive experience to Polyco, supporting our team to build on our culture of quality and strong customer relationships. We spoke with Tim about his role and his hopes for the future. 

What does the future hold for Polyco?

Before I say something about the future, let me tell you something about the past. My first interaction with Polyco was in 2012, when I went to Tom, the owner, with a need while working for a shingle manufacturer. We wanted to produce polymer-modified asphalt coating that could run at high speeds. Polyco developed a coating that ran smoother, faster, and better than the industry had ever seen. Now, RDP is going to help asphalt become a sustainable product. Polyco is on a growth plan. As we expand, one of my roles will be to keep this company true to its people and roots. I’m excited to help grow Polyco into a world-class organization. 

What’s your history with sustainability in the roofing industry? 

Under my sponsorship starting in 2012, GAF developed many options for recycling asphalt shingles, leading to the construction of a pilot factory in Lockport, NY, that creates briquettes of recycled asphalt from shingles. This was a considerable undertaking because sustainability wasn’t as big of a priority in 2012 as it is now, and the high price was a hurdle. Nevertheless, sustainability was and still is important to me, so we worked through it and opened the plant. I look forward to further growing Polyco’s—and my own—sustainability record. 

What shaped you as a leader?

As a manager at one of the plants, I was approached by a 21-year-old man who had just started and he asked why my attitude was so poor. He said, “You set the culture because you’re the manager.” The next day, I went to HR and asked for a list of every employee. I realized the only ones I knew were the 10% I had to correct constantly. After this, I made it a point to talk to every employee. In fact, at one company, my nickname was “Mr. Rogers” because I warmly greeted everyone each morning. To take this further, I established an Idea Board—no matter who makes the recommendation, it is written on a board and doesn’t come down until it’s implemented or discussed. Respect, fairness, trust, and integrity make up the culture I want to set with my employees. 

What do you enjoy outside of work? 

I’m very active. I used to run marathons, and now I run for health. I’m also a barefoot waterskier—I can go 41 miles per hour across the water on my bare feet! Working on cars is another passion of mine. Recently, I combined what my faith taught me, “take your graces and share them with others,” with my car hobby and started buying cars, fixing them up then donating the restored vehicles to single mothers.

Independent Studies Prove that SigmaBond Results in Upcycled Performance

Focusing on what’s possible is at the core of everything Polyco does. One of the innovations we are most excited about is the technology we’ve developed to reduce landfill waste by recycling waste tires. While there are many ways to recycle tires, Polyco’s patented Rapid Digestion Process (RDP) completely liquefies tire rubber so that it actually improves the performance of the paving bitumen. But don’t just take my word for it!

RDP is the “secret sauce” that powers our revolutionary asphalt modifier, SigmaBond. Two independent studies conducted at the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) at Auburn University and the University of Nevada, Reno prove that SigmaBond significantly improves fatigue resistance and thermal stability. Ultimately, these features lead to roads that last longer compared to those made with conventional materials. 

The NCAT study analyzed several mix designs and evaluated the performance of each one after adding SigmaBond with 20% tire rubber to the mix. The results speak for themselves. 

The two formulas with SigmaBond (labeled 82-22SR and 88-22HP) performed better in every category compared to NCAT’s control and unmodified mix design. In fact, the SigmaBond formulation that contained a higher percentage of SBS polymer (88-22HP) actually performed the best — with more than 300 times the fatigue resistance of conventional asphalt.

Structural analysis of cyclic fatigue summary of Polyco's Sigmabond by the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT)

In the University of Nevada, Reno study, researchers evaluated the crack resistance of tire rubber-modified asphalt mixtures, including SigmaBond. The data shows both SigmaBond samples (PG70-16R and PG70-28TR) with 10% tire rubber significantly increased cycles to fatigue when compared to the PG70-10 conventional asphalt pavement with no tire rubber.

Asphalt pavement with Sigmabond increased cycles to fatigue when compared to conventional asphalt pavement

Additionally, the use of SigmaBond was correlated with an overall reduction in fatigue resistance. This performance improvement resulted in a 10% to 25% reduction in construction cost per lane-kilometer when compared to conventional asphalt pavement.

Sigmabond mixture resulted in 10% to 25% reduction in construction cost per lane-kilometer when compared to conventional asphalt pavement

As these studies indicate, SigmaBond outperforms standard paving grade asphalt — enabling hot mix contractors to use more upcycled materials while extending the life of pavements and lowering costs. 

The positive impacts on the environment are twofold; not only does Polyco provide a solution to the tire waste stream, but we also develop materials that create more sustainable roads for generations to come.

What Success Looks Like in Roofing

Of all the materials in a home, roofing shingles are exposed to the harshest natural elements. Our impact-resistant asphalt roofing solutions are used to create state-of-the-art products that mitigate damage from wind, rain, sun and hail. With formulations that resist winds up to 190 mph, roofing shingles made with Polyco adhesives and sealants stay in place keeping property owners safe and dry.

Powered by our patented Rapid Digestion ProcessTM (RDP), Polyco provides roofing partners with sustainable roofing solutions that can be customized to enhance the performance of shingles. We have developed several patented and patent-pending technologies that improve the performance of asphalt shingles:

PolyFlex+

An asphalt modifier made from upcycled tire rubber that can be easily added to any manufacturers’ solutions, resulting in a sustainable alternative to modified shingles that meet impact ratings.

PolyFlex

A ready-to-use solution of PolyFlex+ that can be easily added to manufacturers’ existing processes, this sealant delivers superior impact resistance and sustainability, resulting in a Class 4 end product.

PolyLock
A turnkey solution for asphalt shingle manufacturers who need enhanced performance and sustainability. The result is a sturdier shingle made from recycled materials.

Improvements in the weathering performance of roofing shingles reduce insurance rates and overall ownership costs while adding real value to the home—a win-win for our manufacturing partners and homeowners, alike!

MEET THE TEAM – SUMER LUCAS

meet the team

Sumer Lucas has been an important part of the Polyco R&D team since 2012. She’s a team player who wears many hats. Sumer was recently appointed to a new director position at Polyco, where she’ll continue to be a key researcher while stepping into a more formal leadership role. We spoke with Sumer about what she likes most about working in the research field and what excites her the most about working at Polyco.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Polyco. 

It’s been pretty amazing coming up with Polyco for the last ten years and the insane amount of growth that’s taking place in the last decade. What’s even more awesome, is that I’ve had the amazing opportunity to grow and advance with Polyco. My position at the company entails development of all roofing and paving product formulations. I specifically study asphalt chemistry and its behavior with different polymers. For example, I’m in charge of the current and future development of the Sigmabond formulation. To make it perform even better, we’re diversifying our technologies and manipulating chemistries of asphalt and non-asphalt materials. The goal is to satisfy the needs of our customers while making everything renewable, recycled and sustainable.  

Basically, I’m a big nerd. I love to learn, tinker with stuff, ask questions about everything and never assume anything is where it should be, which is why my position at Polyco is so perfect for me because I can be continuously curious. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

My biggest love is scuba diving. I became an assistant instructor of scuba diving in college, and now, I’m a rescue diver and a master diver. Along with scuba diving, I love exercising. I love lifting weights, running, hiking — really anything that allows me to be active or outside. Whenever I’m out in the wilderness and see things like moss or cool creatures, it takes me back to my biology background.

I also enjoy an active lifestyle with my kids. I have two kids who are autistic, and they’re both amazing. They’re the coolest kids on the planet, and I think that autism makes them that much more creative, interesting and unique. They have brilliant little minds. So, that’s pretty much all I do — try to find time to vacation, scuba dive, be outside, hike, travel and be with my kids.

What does a typical day look like for you at Polyco? 

Every day is different — that’s one of the fun things about work. The day-to-day ultimately revolves around manipulating the technology and the mechanisms we currently have to make them even better, coming up with a new thing to create, or fixing something that’s not working.  

What’s your favorite part about working at Polyco? 

My favorite part about working at Polyco has always been the technology piece and the fact that we are never satisfied with just achieving a goal that we set for that year; we want to do more. So we constantly strive to get better and better, and we are technologically driven. We are all curious people who are never content, making people who are super nerdy, like me, very happy!  

What did you do before you joined Polyco? 

I knew I wanted to do something in science or research since I was four years old. I developed a love for  insects, so I initially wanted to become a field researcher. But then I found chemistry and fell in love with it. I then started to study the chemical mechanisms that happen in insects and became absolutely obsessed with the adaptations of chemicals that insects have that evolved from natural selection. I was also really excited about chemistry in general, with all the different mechanisms of organic chemistry. 

Anything else you want to add about your professional experience? 

I’m working on my MBA right now with a concentration on energy management, so I’ll be able to learn about laws and regulations concerning green technology. It’s been really rewarding so far.

What AB 661 Means for Asphalt Sustainability in California

On September 25th, Governor Newsom signed a new bill into law that will enhance the sustainability of California roads. Assembly Bill 661 expands the state’s existing State Agency Buy Recycled Campaign (SABRC) to include more recycled materials in pavements. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • For recycled tire-derived products … total content shall consist of at least 50 percent recycled used waste tires.
  • For rubberized pavement surfaces, such as rubberized asphalt concrete and chip seal, the binder shall contain at least 15 percent recycled waste tires by weight.
  • Recycled asphalt pavement shall contain a minimum of 25 percent reclaimed asphalt pavement by weight.

For our paving partners in the Golden State, AB 661 presents an opportunity to enhance the sustainability and quality of their asphalt. Using SigmaBond further enables them to meet these new requirements. Since SigmaBond utilizes Polyco’s Rapid Digestion Process™ (RDP), end-of-life tires are blended with asphalt to create homogeneous, storage stable tire rubber formulations in all PG binder, trackless track and emulsions. Additionally, SigmaBond allows for more than 40 percent tire content, more recycled materials in HMA and WMA and has been proven to resist cracking — extending pavement life. SigmaBond also enables faster production times and is compatible with virtually any asphalt mix.

As AB 661 goes into effect on January 1st, we’re excited to see California take strides in ensuring the sustainability of its roads. From our perspective, it’s a win-win for the preservation of our environment and infrastructure. And, here at Polyco, we’re proud to play a role in this new era of pavement sustainability alongside our partners. 

Meet the Team: David Hastings

meet the team
Photo of David Hastings, Quality Assurance Engineer at Polyco

David Hastings is an integral part of the Polyco team in Ennis, Texas. As the ​Quality Assurance Engineer, David helps manage the quality management system and works to establish a line of communication between Polyco and its customers. We spoke with David about what he likes most about working at Polyco and what excites him about the future. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I’m a transplant. I’ve worked in multiple states. I’ve worked out of Ohio, Kentucky, and now Texas. Happy to be back in the South and away from the snow. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I really enjoy fishing when I can. I also enjoy learning new things and watching documentaries.

How would you describe your job at Polyco?

I manage the quality management system at Polyco and I help establish a line of communication between us and our customers. In terms of developing that communication, customer stewardship is my number one focus. I also help ensure that our products meet high-quality standards. Quality is a constant at Polyco.

What’s your favorite part about working at Polyco? 

I’ve worked at bigger companies where you’re put in a box, this is where my job starts, and this is where my job ends. Polyco’s really invested in your development and having you grow within the company. Here, if I want to learn more about safety or if I want to participate more on the operation side, I’ve got options. All it takes is just a will to do it and then developing a plan with my manager. As long as it helps the company, it’s within your development path. That’s my favorite thing. 

Polyco is also invested in its employees. I don’t want to use the term “like a family,” but it’s true, we’re very close and everybody wants to help each other out. At other companies, I got the feeling that there’s a “boot on your head,” when you’ve hit the limit. This is the first place I’ve ever worked where that’s nonexistent, and if there is a limiting factor, they’ll help you get the skills, like tuition reimbursement, etc., to get there. I love that about Polyco. 

What excites you about what’s next at Polyco? 

We are on the cutting edge of this industry. Our RDP product is going global, and we are the only company in the world that can do what we’re doing with devulcanizing rubber. Our products go into the number one performing impact class for shingles. At Polyco, we know adhesive products, we know polymer-modified coatings, and now we’re about to hit the trifecta with our tire rubber-modified products. 

I look forward to a time when I can drive on the road and know it’s a Polyco product. And that it will perform better than anything else out there, and that I played a part in that. 

What’s your favorite thing about being in Texas? 

Southern hospitality 110%. People open doors for one another; they help someone out with a flat tire. They really look out for each other. That was nonexistent up north. I love Texas.

The Secret to Impact-Resistant Shingle Performance: Polymer Modified Asphalt

As we experience more severe weather events, quality roofing materials are more necessary than ever. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) roof shingle hail impact ratings provide one way to assess products’ performance under tough wind and hail conditions. What do the top-performing shingles on the list have in common? Many use Polymer Modified Asphalt, or PMA. 

The benefits of using PMA products include: 

  • More flexibility 
  • Easier application in colder climates than non-modified options 
  • Better granulation so that the granules don’t wash off of the roof as it ages
  • Protection from UV damage 

A roof equipped with a modified shingle will better withstand extreme weather conditions, including heat, wind, and hail, than traditional shingles. And because modified shingles last longer, they have a lower full lifecycle cost than a commodity shingle. With fewer replacements, fewer shingles move to the landfill – making the modified shingle the better choice for our customers and the environment. 

The results of the IBHS survey are another testament to the innovations in the asphalt industry: transforming waste into high-value products.