Carpet recycler building commercial site

By: Mike Verespej

June 14, 2010

New manufacturer Modular Carpet Recycling Inc. has opened a carpet recycling plant in New Castle, Del., that will produce 50 million pounds of recycled nylon resin annually for the commercial market when it ramps up to full capacity in roughly four months.

Much of the carpeting today that is recycled back into carpet is for captive or internal use.

“We will be turning waste carpet into high-purity nylon that can be turned back into new carpet,” said CEO and founder Ron Simonetti, a 20-year veteran of the chemical industry who founded the company three years ago. “There is good customer demand and a need to keep carpeting out of landfills.”

“It is a good time to start the plant,” he said in a June 7 phone interview, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 40,000-square-foot plant. “Many companies are looking for high-quality recycled nylon to increase their recycled content, and there are plenty of opportunities to recycle” waste carpeting. Currently, only about 250 million pounds — or 5 percent — of the 5 billion pounds of the carpeting that is discarded annually is recycled.

It takes roughly 100 million pounds of carpeting to produce 50 million pounds of recycled nylon resin, he said.

Simonetti said the cost of getting the new plant up and running is $5 million, including the cost to build a pilot plant and conduct pilot testing — which was completed last summer. He said MCR will have the new plant running by the end of June and operating at full capacity three months later.

MCR has licensed a dissolution process for recycling carpet waste that was developed by Chris Roberts, chairman of the chemical engineering department at Auburn University in Alabama. Simonetti contends the process is superior to mechanical separation of carpet waste because it allows for greater removal of contaminants.

He said MCR has developed new technology around the Auburn technology “to expand and extend its capabilities.”

“The strength of the technology is that the nylon goes into a chemical solution and you can remove a lot of the dirt, waste and the particulates and get the impurities down to 1 micron or less,” Simonetti said. The recycled nylon has a purity level above 99 percent compared with the typical 95-98 percent achieved in mechanical separation, he said.

“That makes the extrusion into pellets more efficient, with greater yields,” he said.

The company's recycled resin will be called Renewlon and will be made from post-consumer carpet, carpet tiles, fish nets, industrial nylon waste, air bags and nylon stockings and pantyhose.

Simonetti said MCR also will use material from recyclers and industrial processors. MCR has partnered with Carpet America Recovery Effort, an industry/government recycling initiative, and hopes to obtain a good amount of materials from East Coast companies in the CARE network.

MCR has received a $603,000 grant from the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) to pay for a portion of the new equipment at the plant and also has received investment capital from several private equity investors and additional funding from M&T Bank.

Plant equipment will be custom-built and will include bale breakers, chemical tanks, pipes, pumps and a densifier.

“This is one-of-a-kind equipment designed for our new state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

“The emergence of clean-technology industries is one of the most dynamic areas of the economy,” said Alan Levin, DEDO secretary. “The state's investment in MCR [will bond] economic and environmental goals by creating valuable manufacturing jobs for Delaware in this industry, while contributing to reducing waste in landfills.”

The plant is expected to employ about 30 people when it operates at full capacity.

“We are excited to have MCR as part of the CARE team,” said CARE Chairman Frank Hurd. “The company will add significantly to carpet recycling and will be creating jobs and contributing significant dollars for local and state economies.

“The environmental impact of what they are doing is tremendous,” Hurd added. “Their innovative technology will allow for a significant increase in the diversion of post-consumer carpet from landfills and create new uses for post-consumer carpet.”

Simonetti said he expects to build three or four more plants across the U.S. in the next five years as well as one in northern Europe, and to achieve purity levels for the recycled nylon of 99.7 to 99.8 percent so it would be similar to virgin nylon.

“Carpet manufacturers are looking to displace virgin and increase their recycled content,” Simonetti said. “We plan on expanding this facility with additional production lines before building out our manufacturing footprint nationally. We also have plans to build a site in northern Europe in our five-year plan.”

Roughly 250 million pounds of carpeting are recycled annually in the U.S., with about 100 million of that recycled back into nylon fibers for carpeting and another 100 million recycled into other plastic products. He said 20 percent of the carpeting recycled is used to produce energy because of carpeting's high heat-producing content.

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