Evco Plastics has received a demonstration grant of $130,000 from Wisconsin's Waste Recovery and Reduction program, to test a process that uses commingled post-consumer plastics to make products. Rod Jonas, project engineer for recycled plastics for the DeForest, Wis., custom injection molder, estimates that the grant will cover about half of the company's costs to develop the process fully.
``I feel we did very good,'' Jonas said. ``The state had $1.2 million to give out this time and we got more than 10 percent of that.''
Evco was one of 34 applicants for the money. Wisconsin distributes $10 million yearly between three programs designed to encourage waste reduction and recycling to meet the state's mandatory recycling guidelines, said John Reindl, recycling director of Dane County. That is up from $250,000 10 years ago when one program originally was implemented.
Reindl said Evco is addressing two major problems with recycling: the need to sort plastics by type, and the lack of end products for recycled and reprocessed materials. If Evco's experiments with commingled materials are successful, Dane County can reduce greatly or eliminate the hand sorting done by four employees at the county's materials recovery facility.
Currently Evco contracts to have recycled post-consumer plastics shipped to a compounder where they are ground up and recompounded with a proprietary additive to make the materials compatible.
Jonas, who retired after 25 years with DuPont Co. as a chemical engineer, said the first 2,000-pound batch the company had compounded consisted primarily of polypropylene, polystyrene and PET resins.
Evco makes a proprietary line of office products and accessories, which it is producing successfully out of the recycled mixture.
The company is working on other products, including a custom carrying/shipping case for 2-liter soda bottles for Pepsi Cola Co. through International Container Corp. Evco is using a mixture of 50 percent post-consumer resin with 50 percent virgin polyethylene. The goal, Jonas said, is to eliminate the virgin material. Pepsi is conducting tests to see if 100 percent recycled cases can withstand impact under stressful conditions such as temperature extremes.
Jonas is applying for another grant from a separate state program that pays companies the cost difference between recycled and virgin materials.
The real questions the company is addressing, Jonas said, are ``can we live with the variability of commingled materials from various collection sites and is it commercially feasible?''
Jonas believes the answer to both questions is yes, but work on the process is in its infancy. And there are many products that lend themselves to 100 recycled content.
``We're not trying to make some space-age plastic products,'' he said. ``We're just trying to be one of the leaders and show what can be done.''