AKRON, OHIO - Johnson Controls Inc. plans to expand its Novi, Mich., recycling plant, and to build a second plant in Europe, to help commercialize its line of post-consumer PET food packaging products. At $1.03 per pound, JCI's food-use-approved Supercycle resin is a pricey alternative for food packagers, something the company hopes to change.
Gary Cates, government relations and environmental affairs manager for the Milwaukee-based company, told attendees at ARC '95, the annual recycling conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers, held Nov. 2-3 in Akron, that increasing demand for PET, recycled PET and more numerous applications for recyclate should help future sales of the resin.
The resin is produced at JCI's Novi recycling plant, which has about 18 million pounds of capacity per year. While it has been used both in the United States and Europe in blends with virgin resin in bottles for carbonated soft drinks, isotonic drinks, juice, liquor, food-grade film and personal-care product containers, none of the major carbonated soft drink companies have embraced it for large-scale production.
Cates said the resin has been used for carbonated and other soft drinks in Florida, but the expiration of that state's advanced disposal fee this year may drive bottle makers back to using virgin resins.
``We are looking at expanding that [Novi] plant and at a plant in Europe, which would have capacity for about 5,000 metric tons [11 million pounds] per year,'' Cates told the conferees.
Cates said JCI has had to weather a 450 percent increase in the cost of baled PET soda bottles during the past 12 months. Another factor is the cost of the proprietary cleaning process JCI uses to make the regrind suitable for food contact.
``We see the cost of raw materials stabilizing,'' Cates said. ``And we plan expansion at our Novi facility. That increased capacity and the plant in Europe should make it possible to make us even more competitive.''
Michael Gage, principle packaging engineer for corporate packaging at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., said Coke is continuing to consider Supercycle as one of many packaging alternatives.
``Cost is certainly one of the concerns [about Supercycle],'' he said. ``The company charges a premium for it, but we are considering it and are watching what is being done with it.''