VERSAILLES, OHIO — In rural Versailles, a Scrapper gobbles up film at Plastic Recycling Technology Inc., the new showcase plant for extruder maker Davis-Standard Corp.
PRT has spent $3 million to nearly double the size of its factory and install the Scrapper and downstream equipment to reprocess film, said President Mike Phlipot.
The Scrapper sits all alone in a 30,000-square-foot addition, completed last year to give PRT a total of 67,000 square feet of space. But PRT hopes the machine won't be lonely for long; Phlipot expects to purchase more as PRT picks up business.
Meanwhile, Phlipot is studying promising markets beyond PRT's current focus of post-industrial film recycling — including beer bottles and automotive parts.
``We feel, with our location and technical support from Davis-Standard, that we can solve a lot of these recycling issues,'' he said.
As a showcase plant, PRT allows Davis-Standard customers to use the Versailles factory to see the equipment or run trials. Phlipot said Davis-Standard gave PRT about a 10 percent discount on its Scrapper and pledged to help it win more business, according to officials of both firms.
Bernard Kiernan, Davis-Standard's business manager for reclaim machinery, said Davis-Standard considered some other recyclers to be the showcase. PRT has experience and a solid, five-year business plan, he said.
Davis-Standard doesn't have enough space at its Pawcatuck, Conn., plant to run a full-size reclaim laboratory, Kiernan said.
``You can only have a laboratory that is just so big, and while we have nine extruders here, the extruders used in reclaiming post-industrial waste are very large,'' he said. ``We just don't have the ability to put a lab or demonstration machine in here that is of that magnitude.''
Kiernan said PRT can decline visits by other recyclers.
``We're not going to bring a direct competitor into their plant,'' he said.
PRT gets a lot more than the discount, Phlipot said. The Scrapper has a much higher output and uses less labor than the company's six other extrusion lines, which include Sterlings, NRMs and Black Clawson machines.
``There's one gentleman running this machine, where it takes three to do it the old way,'' Phlipot said.
The ``old way'' is labor-intensive. Much post-industrial scrap comes in on rolls. First, a worker has to slice open the roll to remove the cardboard core. Next, the film scrap goes through a size-reduction process, then it goes to a separate machine that densifies it. Three separate machines are involved before the scrap hits the extruder to be reprocessed into new pellets.
The Scrapper does it all at once. Film stays on the rolls, which feed directly into the extruder. In the extra-large feed zone, vertical stationary knives slit the scrap, reducing its size. The machine also can take bulk scrap.
Densification also happens inside the single-screw Scrapper, through what Davis-Standard calls a dual-diameter screw and barrel. After the feed section, which measures 10 inches in diameter, the barrel abruptly squeezes down to 6 inches. That automatically densifies and compacts the material. Water-cooled pellets come out the other side.
The Scrapper process imparts a single heat history, instead of repeated heating and cooling with the other method.
On a recent plant tour, Terry Dirksen, production manager, was kept hopping reloading rolls of film. Before he was promoted last year, Dirksen started out at PRT running a densifier, part of a team of three or four workers. Now he can run the whole process himself.
For the previously low-key PRT, the Davis-Standard linkage amounts to a coming-out party, Phlipot said. He founded PRT in 1988 in Minster, Ohio, after he became interested in plastics recycling while working in thermoforming at a Dannon yogurt plant, also in Minster. The first customer was Accutech Films Inc. — located today in Coldwater, Ohio — which wanted a local recycling source.
In 1991, local investor Stephen Larger became part owner. Larger is vice president and head of sales. The third owner is the founder's father, Francis Phlipot.
In 1992, a fire severely damaged the Minster factory. In 1997, after several years in a temporary facility, the owners built a new plant in Versailles.
PRT now employs 42. It runs its own trucks, which pick up scrap and drop off new pellets to major customers.
In December, PRT hired Jack Giles, a 22-year industry veteran who worked at Liqui-Box Corp.
Today the company recycles for 75 firms in 12 states, Phlipot said.
Polyethylene film continues to be about 80 percent of PRT's business.
``Film has to be very pure. Film is the toughest to keep clean,'' he said.
Repelletized material goes back to film and sheet makers, to the plastic lumber market and to corrugated PE pipe extruders.
For the future, Phlipot is looking at expanding to the automotive recycling market, banking on PRT's location between Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, in the heart of automotive molding.
Phlipot has a personal reason for his interest in recycling future PET beer bottles. He just bought a lakeside restaurant and bar in Celina, Ohio. On a Friday night, it's no fun hauling glass bottles out to the recycling bin. They're heavy. They break.
``When you're very busy, the glass bottles are a real problem,'' he said.