Evergreen Nylon Recycling LLC has broken ground on an $80 million nylon recycling facility, the first of its kind in the world.
Evergreen, a 50-50 joint venture between AlliedSignal Inc. and DSM Chemicals North America Inc., plans to keep more than 200 million pounds of carpet out of landfills each year. The resulting 100 million pounds of caprolactam produced from nylon 6 each year will be split between the companies.
Evergreen hopes to adapt its process eventually to accept entire automotive parts, such as bumpers, grille racks and air-intake manifolds.
``This facility will enable us to do something that's never been done before, anywhere,'' said Dave Mezzanotte, AlliedSignal's vice president and general manager of Chemical Intermediates, and Evergreen's general manager. ``We can make a nylon product live forever.
``When its useful life as a carpet, for instance, is over, we can take it up from your home, throw the whole thing into our patented recycling process, recover the base chemical and make a brand new car part or any nylon product we want,'' Mezzanotte said in a news release.
AlliedSignal has tested the process at its pilot facility in Richmond, Va., for a year. DSM and AlliedSignal have had a development arrangement for four years and formed the Evergreen joint venture in November. The company is based on the jointly developed, patented technology.
``We don't lose any performance; we don't give anything up,'' said William Rea, director of communications for polymers for AlliedSignal. ``We can make the nylon any color and give it any performance characteristic like it was new. This is good for the environment. We've got the right formula here.''
``[This] allows us to break down nylon products using a very efficient chemical process,'' Bill Price, president of DSM Chemicals North America, said in a news release. ``Type 6 nylon has a unique molecular structure that makes this easier to do than with other materials. The economics are such that it's one of those unique opportunities in which an environmental venture is a viable business venture.''
Most other nylon recycling involves mechanical separation, Rea said, making it inefficient and unable to recover much caprolactam. Evergreen's pure chemical process separation is the only large-scope process of its kind, he added.
The joint venture covers just the manufacturing of caprolactam, not the collection of the carpet. AlliedSignal operates the collection of carpet and is in the process of signing companies up to its network, Rea said.
Each firm will receive about 50 million pounds of caprolactam a year from the plant. Rea explained that AlliedSignal makes some caprolactam internally but still needs to buy more to supply the needs of its downstream businesses, such as fibers, resins and films. Its recycled nylon products are Capron and Envirolon. DSM is one of the world's largest sellers of caprolactam.
``Caprolactam for us is gold,'' Rea said.
Evergreen's 40,000-square-foot Augusta, Ga., plant will be completed in fall of 1999. The plant eventually will employ about 75.
The companies also have developed and patented a device that can identify the fiber makeup of carpeting. CarpId uses laser technology to help sort type 6 nylon from other carpet types. AlliedSignal will sell it to carpet collectors, which include major retailers and waste collection firms.
``We want high yield so the more nylon 6 in the carpet, the better,'' added Rea.
``Right now the process is geared and perfected for carpet. We are looking to the future. We will be able to take anything with a significant amount of nylon 6. We would have to modify the process, but there is potential.''
AlliedSignal's polymers business unit is based in Morristown, N.J. Its products include nylon resin and film, polyester and polyethylene fibers.
DSM Chemicals North America, headquartered in Augusta, Ga., is the North American operation of DSM Fiber Intermediates, a business group of DSM NV of Heerlen, Netherlands. The group manufactures and markets raw materials for nylons, with caprolactam as its most important product.