logo

Branching into more materials, NextLife opens recycling plant in Arkansas

By: Mike Verespej

October 26, 2012

BOCA RATON, FLA. (Oct. 26, 3:40 p.m. ET) — Plastics recycler and resin manufacturer NextLife Enterprise LLC has opened a second reprocessing plant. But unlike its plant in Frankfort, Ky., this won’t be devoted exclusively to plastics recycling.

The new $10 million plant in Rogers, Ark., will recycle plastics, metal, aluminum, glass and corrugated. Only about 20-25 percent of the material recycled at the 260,000 square foot plant will be plastics, said Ron Whaley, president and CEO of NextLife, which is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.

But he emphasized that “the amount of plastics we plan to process there annually will be about the same as the Frankfort plant—at least 60 million pounds.”

He said the Arkansas plant—which opened under a slightly different name, NextLife Asset Recovery Services—is currently processing about 1 million pounds of material per week.

“We expect to reach full production by the middle of next year,” Whaley said in an Oct. 26 phone interview. The company did not announce that the new plant was operational until Oct. 17—or about three weeks after it started operations.

Whaley said the new name reflects the different mission of that plant and meshes with changing customer demands.

“The Arkansas plant will be focused on recovery of assets,” he said. “This is something our customers asked us to do which is why we put a little different spin on the name.”

In Arkansas, Whaley said NextLife, for example, is working with a consumer product goods company to recycle child care seats and with another company to recycle appliances.

“We will be working with larger retailers, manufacturers and consumer product companies who want to divert materials from their waste stream and who want a single solution to help them recover all their recyclables,” he said.

“We will collect waste, clean waste, process waste and turn it back into consumer products,” said Whaley. “Our goal is to have to be a complete waste-to-recovery facility that does every step in the process.”

Currently, the plant has three baling, shredding and sorting lines and employs roughly 70 people. But Whaley said the company will be adding more lines and eventually injection molding equipment to make products.

“We want to do custom work for specific customers to make products using our resin,” Whaley said. “We will continue to ramp up on a monthly basis and within 18 months, our workforce will be close to 350 people.”

That would be more than twice as many as the 150-person workforce at the Frankfort plastics recycling plant, which currently operates three reprocessing lines, However, that plant is expanding soon.

“We have two more lines getting ready to ship,” Whaley said. “One should be in place by the end of the year and another in early 2013. Each line will add 15 million more pounds of capacity, boosting the capacity at the Frankfort plant to nearly 75 million pounds.

“We need more people in Arkansas because we will be handled a lot of material with our asset recovery services,” Whaley said. “We are handling a massive amount of recoverable materials.”

He said that at the present time materials such as glass, aluminum, corrugated and metals are shipped to other recyclers. “We want to remove those materials from landfills for our customers.”

Whaley said the Arkansas operation gives NextLife access to different streams of plastic feedstock that otherwise would be difficult to obtain.

NextLife has initially planned to expand with a plant in Michigan, but decided earlier this year to switch to the site in Arkansas.

“We need more plants,” said Whaley. “This won’t be our last facility by any means.”

NextLife Asset Recovery Services is a fully-owned subsidiary of NextLife Enterprise LLC.

At present, NextLife works with manufacturing partners such as Cascade Engineering Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Dell Inc. to create products such as ink cartridges, industrial pallets and aesthetic rain barrels from recycled resins.

Some other products that use NextLife resins are the Schick Xtreme3 Eco razor from Schick-Wilkinson Sword; the recycled resin cutlery line and the EcoLid 25 lids for hot-beverage cups sold by Eco-Products Inc. of Boulder, Colo., and some of the Preserve-brand personal-care, tableware, kitchen and food-storage products made by Recycline Inc. in Waltham, Mass.