Rock-Tenn Co. will invest $3 million to buy and upgrade a plastics recycling facility in Indianapolis. The recycling operation will give Rock-Tenn a steady, in-house stream of post-consumer PET and high density poly-ethylene flake for its extruded roll stock and thermoformed packaging businesses, marketing director Marty Shaw said in a telephone interview from Rock-Tenn's Norcross, Ga., headquarters.
The seller, Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Inc., will reinvest earnings from the plant's sale into its other opera-tions, said Goodwill's vice president of marketing, Cindy Graham. The Indianapolis-based firm is an affiliate of a worldwide network of independent Goodwill outfits, which are perhaps best-known for their retail stores. The companies expect the deal to close Oct. 16. Terms were undisclosed.
``They made us a good offer,'' Graham said.
Rock-Tenn plans to raise the plant's recycling capacity to 20 million pounds per year. Already on order is an automated sorting and separation system machine from Magnetic Separation Systems Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., called BottleSort, which can process 5,000 pounds per hour of mixed materials - a ``dramatic upgrade'' from the plant's present capabilities, Shaw said.
``It's kind of wild-looking,'' he said, describing the BottleSort system at work.
Using vibration, BottleSort loosens and separates the bales of compressed containers into individual bottles, then sorts them by color and resin type.
The plant will provide flake for Rock-Tenn's extrusion and thermoforming plants in Conyers, Ga., and Franklin Park, Ill. The company's Plastic Packaging Division, which comprises those two plants and a technical center in Norcross, Ga., also will oversee the new, 37,000-square-foot recycling facility, which employs more than 30, Graham said. John D. Skelton heads that division as its vice president and general manager.
Although Rock-Tenn's primary focus right now is on in-house needs for PET and HDPE, it also is interested in finding outside buyers for those materials, Shaw said. Meanwhile the firm is looking for suppliers of both mixed PET and commingled bales of HDPE, PET and PVC to feed its new capacity.
Rock-Tenn, a longtime paper recycler with operations dating as far back as 1893, is ``terribly comfortable'' with the business of recovery and recycling, Shaw said. The company manufactures paper and plastic packaging and recycled paperboard. Its 61 manufacturing and distribution facilities in the United States and Canada include eight recycled paper mills, he said.
The company entered the plastics thermoforming business more than 10 years ago, and for eight years has been extruding its own roll stock. In addition to its offering of stock products, it serves the custom packaging needs of a wide range of companies and industries, Shaw said, making food containers, surgical procedure trays and packaging for dental floss, baby wipes, hardware and confections, among other items. In recycled content, its capabilities range from 100 percent recycled to coextruded three-layer sheet with an inner layer of recycled resin.
The Norcross tech center sets Rock-Tenn apart from its competitors, according to Shaw. Performing its own product design and prototyping gives customers an added service and the company more control over its packaging, lessening production risks, Shaw said.
One recently launched product is a 9-inch-deep thermoformed PET tub, which Rock-Tenn sells to wholesale stores, such as Sam's Wholesale Club, for storage and display of bulk items, such as wrapped candies and laundry detergent. The deepness of the draw was a challenge for the company's tech center.
Computer-aided design/manufacturing engineers ``figured out how to thermoform that deep without the stretch marks or thinning endemic to a container that deep,'' he said.
Publicly traded Rock-Tenn had sales of $705 million in 1994, but does not break out plastics-related sales. It employs about 6,200.
Goodwill has a remaining plastics unit. Its industrial division includes a small blow molding operation making containers for windshield wiper fluid, distributed through retail stores, Graham said. The operation had 1994 sales of about $400,000.