Dow Chemical Co. is getting back into the recycled-content resin game, striking a deal to market resins made by recycler MRC Polymers Inc. to automotive customers.
The Dow Automotive unit will market the resins under the Retain brand name. Recycled-content polycarbonate and PC/ABS currently are available, with recycled-content grades of polypropylene and PET set to be introduced later this month.
"We had taken a stab at [recycled-content resins] in the past, but we didn't have as much success as we would have liked because we didn't have enough expertise," Dow Automotive market manager Dean Palmieri said in a recent telephone interview. "Now with MRC we're in a great position to do so."
The partnership also is being driven by major automakers' requests for minimum recycling content in parts for new vehicles. Ford Motor Co. announced plans in 1999 to set mandated levels of recycled plastics, rubber and glass per vehicle.
Midland, Mich.-based Dow expects Retain-brand resins to be used in interior auto parts, such as defroster grilles and heating, venting and air-conditioning ducts; in exterior parts, such as luggage racks and wheel covers; and in under-the-hood applications, such as engine covers.
Chicago-based MRC's "recycling-first" philosophy separated it from other companies Dow was considering as a partner, Palmieri added.
"Most recyclers start out as compounders and add recycling, but MRC started out as a recycler," he said. "For them, recycling isn't a product line extension or an, `Oh, by the way ...' afterthought."
MRC also can produce resins with 100 percent recycled content, while some other firms Dow looked at could go no higher than 25-40 percent, according to Palmieri.
MRC President Dan Eberhardt, who founded the company in 1980, said the Retain line "will provide the industry with a serious choice when it comes to using recycled plastic materials in demanding automotive applications."
The automotive market currently makes up 10-20 percent of MRC's business, but Eberhardt said he hopes that will change with the Dow partnership.
"Automotive is a difficult market for a small company to penetrate, and most recyclers tend to be small companies," he said. "We think Dow has a lot to offer in this area."
MRC, which posted sales of $25 million last year, operates two plants in Chicago and a third in Mount Vernon, Ind. A fourth plant, also in Chicago, is scheduled to open in early 2002. All Retain resins will be produced at MRC plants.
The new plant will employ 25 and will double MRC's total annual capacity to 100 million pounds.
The 80,000-square-foot facility will be on a 10-acre site that includes room for another plant in the future.
The Dow-MRC deal currently does not include Prima Plastics LLC, a Chicago compounder owned by Eberhardt's wife, Maria Aguilar de Eberhardt, but it could be expanded to include Prima at a later date, Dow's Palmieri said.
Dan Eberhardt owns 40 percent of Prima, which was launched in 1999 to benefit from business being sourced to minority suppliers by Tier 1 automotive suppliers. Maria Eberhardt, Prima's majority owner, is Mexican-American.