The largest U.S. high density polyethylene recycler will become the goliath of the industry when it almost triples its capacity early next year.
KW Plastics Recycling Division, based in Troy, Ala., is constructing a 125,000-square-foot building with additional washing and grinding equipment. The expansion increases the company's capacity from 215 million pounds per year to 650 million, said President Arthur Ferguson.
The firm will install two new proprietary wash lines with in-line grinding when the building is completed after the first of the year. After some renovation to existing wash lines, they too will be moved to the new facility, which is behind the existing plant in Troy. The plants sit on about 16 of the firm's 230 acres.
Between 50 and 60 people will be added to the staff of 140. The current plant will be used for optical sorting of bottles, extrusion repelletizing and shipping.
The firm only has preliminary estimates as to the cost of the expansion, which it declined to provide. Ferguson said the expansion prepares KW for its future needs.
``We're looking down the road five years, but we hope to add more capacity before then,'' he said in a telephone interview.
Ferguson is optimistic about the business, despite some problems in the plastics recycling industry in the past year.
Although PET recycling has suffered recently, HDPE recycling volume actually increased in 1996, according to data from the American Plastics Council in Washington. The recycling rate for HDPE also increased, to 24.4 percent, while rates for other materials fell.
Ferguson said he is hoping for an increased number of bottles in the recycling stream.
``With Nov. 15 being America Recycles Day, we hope to rekindle the fire of 1990-92,'' he said.
KW recycles equal amounts of natural and mixed-color post-consumer HDPE. About 70 percent of its pellets are sold to the blow molding industry. Other end markets include curbside collection carts, T-shirt bags, strapping and hangers for plastic bags.