A couple of major forces in polystyrene — one on the recycling side and one on the manufacturing side — are teaming up to create what they believe is a first-of-its kind reclamation facility.
Plastic Recycling Inc., which has specialized in recycling polystyrene for decades, and Dart Container Corp., which is the world’s largest maker of foam cups and containers, are developing a new PS recycling facility in Indianapolis.
This site, the developers believe, will be the first in the nation to process both rigid and foam post-consumer PS that will arrive mixed in bales.
With an expected annual capacity of 25 million pounds, the new site will combine PRI’s expertise in PS recycling and Dart’s PS washing technology under one roof.
One very big roof.
The new business venture has just about 300,000 square feet at its disposal and the ability to expand to 480,000 square feet.
The first recycling line will provide the initial capacity, but there will be room to add an additional line in the future.
PRI recycles PS for its own internal use as well as the production of pellets for other companies.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest in wanting to use recycled material, not just recycled but post-consumer. We’ve been supplying post-consumer since 1990. During the last couple of years, it’s just really exploded in people wanting to be able to use the post-consumer back into their products,” said Alan Shaw, owner of PRI.
For Dart, the project goes beyond finding an outlet for its products once they are used.
“This is about so much more than foam cups. This really opens the door. It’s a gateway for a lot more material to be recycled,” said Michael Westerfield, director of recycling programs for Dart.
“This is really a huge example about how voluntary producer responsibility can work and in a way that’s not self-serving,” he said.
“Yes, we can capture your foam take-out container and your foam cup. But it can also take ice chests, which we don’t make, egg cartons, which we don’t make,” Westerfield said, citing a couple of examples. “It goes on and on. There’s a lot of materials made out of No. 6.”
PRI and Dart are green-lighting the project as New York City mulls whether it will add PS to is recycling stream. The companies want to have the capacity for that material if the city decides to go ahead with the idea. A decision is expected by the end of this year.
“We have committed to New York City that we will recycle their curbside material if they add it,” Dart’s Westerfield said. “We’re waiting to see what happens with them.”
If NYC says y-e-s, then the new facility has a ready-made major source of material and the ability to expand as needed as new cities come onboard.
If NYC decides against the idea, then the new operation will start marketing its services to other cities.
PRI and Dart have a long-standing business relationship as the recycler has been handling material from the manufacturer for years.
But it was only in 2012 that the two sides got together at a conference to start talking about a partnership that brings us to now.
“In terms of reclamation facilities, we’re not aware of any other facility that’s actively processing post-consumer foam and rigid PS together,” Westerfield said.
A sister company of PRI uses recycled PS to make parts for cash registers, according to Brandon Shaw, marketing manager for PRI.
But the company also is a major compounder for other companies.
“There’s not too many guys who do what we do on the styrene side,” he said. “There’s a bigger green kick now with people actually wanting post-consumer resin.”
PRI currently recycles about 60 million pounds of PS, both foam and rigid, each year. Boosting that number through the new project will help the company even out the business.
“It’s a very volatile market. It has been. And this will help us control our costs more with steady streams of post-consumer, which should help us should help us lower our costs and give our customers what they want,” Brandon Shaw said.
The new facility, located about three miles from an existing PRI facility, will initially employ 25 and should be up and running by the first quarter of next year.