COLUMBUS, GA. - A major supplier of lead-acid automo-tive batteries recently opened its largest battery recycling plant. GNB Technologies Inc. of Atlanta began operations at its 150,000-square-foot facility in Columbus at the end of June, said company spokeswoman Jeannine Addams.
The $50 million plant will be the largest in the GNB system. It was designed to yield zero emissions from the lead, acid and plastics recycling process, using new, proprietary technology.
``GNB already has a worldwide network for recovering its own and other lead-acid batteries, and for reprocessing the lead, acid and plastic into more batteries,'' she said. ``But this plant, unlike many others, will produce no hazardous waste or sulfur emissions that can cause acid rain, and continuously reuses process water, eliminating effluent.''
The plant is geared to recycle about 9 million car, truck and other lead-acid batteries per year, from which the company plans to recover 20 million pounds of plastic per year, nearly all polypropylene.
The new process breaks apart the batteries, then chips and washes plastic battery cases twice, instead of once, as in a traditional battery recycling facility. The resulting PP is clean and small enough to be fed directly into extruders to be reprocessed, Addams said.
KW Plastics Inc. of Troy, Ala., will repelletize the PP, then return the pellets to GNB for use in new battery cases.
Tommy Youngblood, marketing and purchasing manager for KW Plastics, said the addition of volume from the new plant will be no problem to accommodate.
``We shipped 150 million pounds of recycled polypropylene last year. This is really just an extension of what we already do for GNB,'' Youngblood said.
GNB expects a ballooning market for lead-acid batteries in electric passenger cars and buses. The 1998 market for electric vehicle batteries in California alone could reach $270 million, according to company estimates.
GNB maintains a network for battery recovery with its major original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket retailers, such as Sam's Club and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Some customers return used batteries to the retail stores when they purchase new batteries, Addams said, while some automotive customers take used batteries back to their car dealerships.
GNB Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Dunlop Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia. GNB plants in Los Angeles, Frisco, Texas, and Wellington, New Zealand, can recycle 30 million batteries per year.