In this episode of NYS Manufacturing Now, FuzeHub’s Steve Melito breaks down concrete, cement, and glass with Jacob Kumpon, the co-founder and COO of KLAW Industries in Binghamton, New York. KLAW was a winner of the first New York State Advanced Materials Innovation Challenge and has developed a stronger, greener technology for the concrete and recycling industries.
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Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito. Today, we’re talking to Jacob Kumpon, the co-founder and COO of KLAW Industries in Binghamton, New York. The company has developed a process that uses waste glass as a partial replacement for cement and concrete. The company’s product increases the strength of concrete while allowing concrete producers to reduce their cement content. As we’re about to find out, that’s good both for the bottom line and for the environment. Jacob, welcome to the podcast.
Jacob Kumpon: Thank you, Steve. Appreciate it. Really happy to be here.
Steve Melito: Well, fantastic. So Jacob, tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background and why did you start the company?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, so my co-founder, his name is Jack, and I started the company in 2019 here in Binghamton, New York. We’re originally from the upstate area, both of us. So that’s what got KLAW Industries going, and really we started actually on the recycling side of things, figuring out that there’s a big problem with waste glass in the recycling industry. There’s not a good use for it. It’s really hard to deal with. It’s really expensive to get rid of. So really, figuring out a process to clean that glass up and then finding and end market for it, which happened to be the concrete industry, is how we got going.
Steve Melito: Excellent. So Jacob, sometimes people use the terms concrete and cement interchangeably, and they are different, of course, but can you tell us how they work together?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, absolutely, and this is something that we actually did before we started the company as well. So concrete is what you see in a sidewalk. When you’re walking down the street, you’re walking on concrete. Cement is the binding ingredient in concrete. That’s what actually makes it strong and hold together. So cement is a very fine gray powder that they use when they’re mixing concrete, and it’s by far the most expensive part of concrete in terms of the material costs. It’s also responsible for almost all of the carbon emissions associated with concrete. Concrete’s come into the conversation as having a lot of environmental impact. It’s not the concrete itself; it’s the cement-production process that’s really the issue.
Steve Melito: That is good to know, and answers my question about the relationship between the two. So the cement is the binder?
Jacob Kumpon: That’s correct, yeah. So the cement’s actually what’s giving off a reaction to actually increase the strength. The other materials, like gravel and sand, are just in there to basically take up space.
Steve Melito: Okay, excellent. And it sounds like there is a benefit in terms of reducing CO2 emissions in concrete production. Is that benefit truly significant? Is the cement production a big producer of CO2?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah. So for every one ton of cement produced, one ton of CO2 is released in the atmosphere, roughly. So it’s one of the biggest contributors to the carbon problem that we have. To put it in perspective, cement production, which nobody really talks about, is about four times bigger than the entire aviation industry in terms of carbon output. So it’s a very big problem that’s very difficult to solve. Finding ways to reduce that cement content in your concrete mixes is really one of the best ways to try to decarbonize concrete on a relatively quick timeline.
Steve Melito: Excellent. So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about your website and give you a shout-out It’s KLAW Industries, K-L-A-W industries.com, and you have some text on your website that says, “Concrete producers are struggling with the supply of supplementary cementitious materials, SCMs.” So why is there a shortage?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, so supplementary cementitious materials, for anybody who doesn’t know, is basically a type of material that can replace a portion of cement and add to the remaining cement reaction, basically increasing the overall strength, but you’re still reducing some of your cement content. Typically, what’s used in the concrete industry in New York is fly ash from coal-power plants and slag from steel foundries. However, I’m sure you can imagine both of those are industries are dying out pretty quickly. So really in the upstate region, there’s almost no fly ash and slag is very expensive. So that’s what’s causing the shortage and causing people to have to use more cement in their mixes, which is the opposite way that we want to go. So our material fits into all these existing processes. We basically take the place of fly ash or take the place of slag in these mixes. We drop right in. We don’t have to do any optimization. We can utilize the existing infrastructure at these plants and then still get that carbon impact.
Steve Melito: Okay, good. So the supplementary cementitious materials, or SCMs, are in short supply, but post-consumer glass is abundant. In fact, you could probably say there’s too much of it. Can you tell us about this and how it affects the recycling industry?
Jacob Kumpon: So glass has always been the problem-child of the recycling industry, and not many people know that. Most people think of glass as a very recyclable material, but really if you’re putting glass, let’s say a wine bottle, into a curbside recycling bin, almost all of the time that ends up in the landfill. And that’s because it gets mixed with paper, plastic and metal, making it unusable for new bottles, or really, anything else. So what we did is we actually developed a process to clean that glass up. Like I mentioned, the company starting on the recycling side, it was to solve that huge waste-glass problem, and we really needed a high volume industry to take a clean glass material, and that’s how we connected it to concrete.
Steve Melito: That’s great. Now, are you able to tell us where you get the recycled glass from? I mean, really what I’m asking is do you have a New York State supply chain?
Jacob Kumpon: So all of our glass that we take in is sourced locally. We get ours from Southern Tier Recyclers. It’s a single-stream recycling facility here in Binghamton. And typically, that’s the type of glass that we like to take is from the single- stream recycling facilities, or MRFs is what they’re called in the industry. They have the highest volume of glass, and also, they deal with a level of contamination that nobody else can really take. So that is a big benefit for us is we can soak up their entire glass supply.
Steve Melito: Excellent. So your company’s product is called Pantheon and it uses waste glass as a partial replacement for cement, and one of those advantages to it is the concrete is stronger. Can you tell us about this?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, so this gets a little bit into the technical details, but if you compare our material to slag, which is what’s mainly used in New York now – fly ash has been on a faster decline – we come out about 11% stronger in compressive strength. So that’s a pretty substantial increase for the concrete industry. Compressive strength is how concrete is measured. It’s also how it’s purchased. If, let’s say, the City of Binghamton buys concrete, they buy a 4, 500 PSI mix, which means the concrete can take a load of 4, 500 PSI. So the ability to increase the strength while actually saving money on your material costs is a pretty huge benefit to concrete producers, and it’s been one of our biggest selling points.
Steve Melito: It sure sounds like it. So it takes a waste product, and you’d get something that is actually stronger and the concrete producer saves money. Do you have any data about how much they can save?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, so we sell our material, Pantheon, for $90 per ton freight on board in Binghamton. So location plays a very big part into how much a concrete producer actually saves, but typically you can expect somewhere between 20% compared to what you’re using now and where you’re also sourcing your alternative materials.
Steve Melito: That’s great. So let’s talk about money some more. Last December, FuzeHub named KLAW Industries a winner of the first New York State Advanced Materials Innovation Challenge and awarded you a $50,000 grant. How will you use that money to advance your technology?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, so one of the big things that we’ve started to do is I mentioned logistics plays a pretty big part of our business. That FuzeHub award in particular is helping us expand our logistics operations so that we can supply some of our local concrete plants here with more of our material. That’s been a big threshold that’s been holding us back, and now that we’re starting to bring that in-house , we’re really excited to be able to send out some more product.
Steve Melito: Excellent. And one last question. Can you tell us more about how New York State assets have helped your company? For example, you’re located in the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, and you’ve got some pretty strong university connections.
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah. So we started here in the Incubator, and the New York State assets really got us off the ground in a couple of different ways. The first is we’ve raised about $1.2 million so far in grant funding. We actually don’t have any investors. The reason we’ve been able to do that is leveraging those assets that are here in Binghamton and across the state. And then also on a local level, we’re making a very localized material. We can’t send it to California today. You can’t actually ship it that far. One of the big benefits of the Koffman was that we were able to get involved in local municipal concrete projects. One of our big concrete projects we did last year was City of Binghamton Curb and Sidewalk Projects, which was a huge validation for both the company and our process over on 75 Griswold Street, which is our manufacturing plant. So having those local connections was something that we didn’t see as being very valuable, but turned out to be one of the biggest assets that KLAW Industries has at this point.
Steve Melito: Excellent. Hey, one last question. How did you come up with the name KLAW Industries?
Jacob Kumpon: Yeah, KLAW Industries is actually an acronym for the original founders’ last names. It’s Kumpon, Lamuraglia and Wallis. If you look at concrete producers or recycling facilities, it’s usually last names, like Taylor Garbage or Burt Adams Disposal. So we decided to stay on that same track, and KLAW sounded cooler than WALK.
Steve Melito: It does sound cool and definitely tough, and it’s right for the industry. So Jacob, thanks so much for being on New York State Manufacturing Now.
Jacob Kumpon: Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it.
Steve Melito: So we’ve been talking to Jacob Kumpon, the co-founder and COO of KLAW Industries in Binghamton, New York. This is a company that FuzeHub has assisted and has worked with New York State assets, and if you’re out there listening, you’re probably wondering how your company can get some help too, and the way that you do that is to reach out to FuzeHub. Talk to us about what’s going on. Is there a business challenge, a technical challenge? We can tell you about available programs and connect you with the right resources. So the way to get the help that you need: go to www.fuzehub.com, and when you’re there, look for a button right in the middle of the homepage about Speak To A Manufacturing Expert. That will enable you to fill out a short form, let us know what you need, and then a member of our Manufacturer Solutions program will be in touch with you, typically within 24 hours. And we will do an initial assessment, and then based on that assessment, we’ll try to figure out who can best help you. We’re here to help, so hopefully you’ll take advantage of this opportunity. So on behalf of FuzeHub and New York State Manufacturing Now, this is Steve Melito, signing off.