logo

Poly Recovery aims to keep recycling local

By: Jim Johnson

January 28, 2014

As CEO of Poly Recovery LLC, John Pelech jokingly calls himself a plastics ninja.

He isn't afraid to talk a big game and wants to back up his words while trying to change the world.

The next step in that pursuit: a $1.5 million expansion to create a new wash plant that will be able to handle and sort dirty and mixed plastics.

The 24,000-square-foot expansion will increase Portsmouth, N.H.-based Poly Recovery's capacity by about 30 million pounds per year, just about double where the company is now.

Work should be completed next month that will allow Poly Recovery to continue executing on Pelech's vision of handling local materials and finding local markets for those materials.

"Our waste gets processed here. The jobs get promoted here. The jobs get created here, and we create end products here. If we could do this everywhere in the United States, the amount of material I could keep out of the landfill would be revolutionary," Pelech said.

Pelech has a goal of replicating the Poly Recovery model throughout the United States. But that will take time and partners and additional resources.

"There should be a Poly Recovery every 200 miles because we create these closed loop clusters. It's our waste. We created it. Let's not ship it off on a boat to China or India," he said. Or truck it to North Carolina from New England for that matter.

"The real thing here is finding the right partnerships and also doing our due diligence," General Manager Mike Mooney said. "We like to do our research and determine what the markets are," Mooney said. "We're in the process of evaluating a number of places throughout the country.'

In New Hampshire, installing the new wash plant will allow Poly Recovery to utilize additional local recycled plastics and help meet local demand for that material.

"That's the important portion of this. All of the material that we're sourcing is right here in the Northeast. We're not pulling this from all over God's creation. This is material that is otherwise leaving our region or going to a landfill," Mooney said. "It's our waste."

He called the project "a no-brainer."

"Poly Recovery has a triple bottom line mentality. We not only want to make money to grow the business, but we also want to take into consideration our social impact and our environmental impact," he said.

Sourcing local used plastic and finding local customers for that material, for example, helps cut down on the carbon footprint all along way, the men said.

Plastic being captured by Poly Recovery is not being shipped to far-away states for processing or disposal. And the company's finished product, what Pelech called an "end-user-ready regrind" that can compete against reprocessed and virgin pellets, is finding a home with local manufacturers.

"We're not remelting this material. We're putting our effort in first to make the material clean enough to actually process and making it clean enough so we don't have to melt," Pelech said.

Pelech, who isn't afraid to pepper his discussion with some salty language, does take offense with two particular words: status quo.

"The status quo, quite frankly, sucks," he said.

"We create these consumable, disposable products that are mainly plastic and the consumer feels great about buying them because, 'I do my part, I recycle,'" he said.

"But, literally, 99 percent of these people have no idea what goes into recycling them. They have no idea where their recycling goes," he said.

Pelech said he believes consumers need to become more educated about who handles their plastics where they ultimately end up, especially the more difficult-to-recycle resins.

And that, he said, will lead to change.