RICHMOND, IND. (Feb. 2, 10:15 a.m. ET) — Perpetual Recycling Solutions will open its first plastics recycling facility — a 110-million pound food-grade recycled PET plant in Richmond — to fill what it sees as a void in the commercial market.
“What differentiates us [from others] will be our ability to produce food-grade product, but in flake form,” said David Bender, president and CEO of both Perpetual Recycling and the Chicago-based holding company, Re: Think Recycling Group LLC, which he and two others founded four years ago.
The $30 million, 100,000-square-plant has been in the planning stages for more than 16 months and was announced at a Feb. 2 news conference. He said the plant will use both curbside and deposit material to make the food-grade flake.
The recycling plant will be in a former aluminum castings automotive parts plant that contractor RFW Construction Group, a builder of manufacturing plant and food-processing facilities based in Dyersburg, Tenn., will repurpose for Perpetual.
“We will be operational by the end of the year,” said Bender in a phone interview. “There are going to be two lines.”
The first line will have the capacity to produce 75 million pounds of food-grade flake annually from a raw material input of 107 million pounds, which is roughly equivalent to 823 million plastic bottles.
“I expect the first line will be at full capacity by the first quarter of next year,” Bender said. “We will follow that up in 2013 with a line that will produce a minimum of 35 million pounds of food-grade flake annually — and that line could be larger,” he said.
Re: Think also owns Pure Tech Plastics, a manufacturer of recycled food-grade and non-food-grade flakes and pellets that it bought in October 2008. That was Re: Think’s first entry into plastics recycling.
Pure Tech, formed in 1989, has its headquarters and recycling plant in East Farmingdale, N.Y.
Bender said the decision to form Perpetual Recycling to make food-grade recycled PET in Richmond, Ind., was driven by what company executives saw as a gap in the market.
“We saw brand owners who wanted to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, but who were lacking a merchant option at the high-end, particularly a high-end, food-grade flake,” he said.
He said a number of its recycled food-grade PET competitors have chosen slightly different niches.
• CarbonLITE’s recently opened plant in Riverside, Calif., with an annual nameplate capacity of 100 million pounds, is focusing on high intrinsic velocity (IV) PET pellets.
• The $14 million, 36-million pound PET recycling plant opened this past April in Fitchburg, Wisc., by thermoformer Placon Corp. will make FDA flake, but it mostly is designed to be a closed-loop approach to making recycled PET sheet for packaging from thermoformed packaging and PET bottles.
• Custom Polymers PET LLC in Athens, Ala., makes both PET flakes and food-grade PET pellets.
“I absolutely commend my competitors,” said Bender. “But we will able to bring FDA product to the market in flake form. So it will lower the cost to customers” interested in using flake instead of FDA food-grade pellets.
“This is all about empowering brand owners to help them deliver on their sustainability objectives and to help them turn waste back into the products or the commodity they require,” he said.
“It’s our expectation that the bulk of our sales will be heading into packaging for bottles and thermoformed sheet,” said Bender. “The vast majority of our flake will be going into FDA packaging. But we expect there will some purchases of our flakes for use in high-end apparel and in the automotive industry.”
Bender said the plant will use a wash line from the Italian-based firm, Sorema Plastic Recycling Systems, and use balers, shredders and sorting systems purchased from systems integrator, Van Dyk Baler Corp., which is the exclusive North American distributor for Bollegraaf Recycling Machinery.
“In our view, most of the PET plants in the United States have been undercapitalized,” said Bender, who declined to disclose Re: Think’s financial backers. “We wanted to bring the right solution to the table that involves a significant amount of capital combined with the right processes and technology. When you are dealing with high-end flake, you need to have the best technology.”
Bender said the company planned to make some modifications to the equipment, which he said was “already on order.”
He said the decision to form Perpetual as a separate company was because Pure Tech uses only bottle deposit PET material to make its flakes and pellets, and that Pure Tech also makes non food-grade recycled PET.
“Pure Tech has a long history of providing deposit flake to customers,” said Bender. “We didn’t want any confusion.”
Bender said Perpetual will have an educational center at its plant in Richmond, where schools can bring students to learn about recycling and see a recycling plant in operation.
“We are trying to teach our children that their waste can be repurposed and that we can save valuable resources by re-using that plastic” whether it is a soft drink, water or juice bottle.
Bender co-founded Re: Think in April 2008 with another former Havi executive, Jody Fusello, who is chief marketing officer of Re: Think and Perpetual; and Carter Smith, a former Bank of America executive, who is chief financial officer for Re: Think and Perpetual.
Just prior to forming Re: Think, Bender was CEO of Havi Global Solutions, a large global company based in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove that provides packaging for brand owners, as well as related supply chain and logistics services.