Phoenix Technologies LP gained approval April 24 from the Food and Drug Administration to use material from its PET recycling process in hot-fill containers.
The company had received an FDA nonobjection letter in 1999 to use the same process for containers other than hot-fill bottles, said Jean Bina, manager of commercial operations. Back in 1999, Phoenix was the first company to get FDA approval for a food container made with 100 percent curbside material.
With the new approval, the company is spending $2 million to $4 million to expand operations at its Bowling Green, Ohio, plant. Phoenix is part of Plastic Technologies Inc. in Holland, Ohio.
Phoenix is gaining a second recycling line to process curbside material that will start operating within a year. The firm is adding 10,000 square feet of space, bringing its total to 79,000 square feet. The company also plans to construct a 20,000-square-foot building next door for warehouse space.
The company started commercial operation of its first line for food-grade curbside material in December and is "selling everything we can produce," Bina said.
Phoenix chose not to seek FDA approval in 1999 for hot-fill applications because its partners, including Coca-Cola Co., were not as interested in hot-fill containers for products like juices, Bina said. Using 100 percent curbside material in a bottle was new to the FDA, and the company did not want to delay its application, she said.
Coke's Australia bottlers use the Phoenix process to make 25 percent recycled-content bottles. Coke recently announced plans to use 10 percent recycled content in all its U.S. bottles by 2005.
Bina said Phoenix probably could expand to reprocess enough PET for Coke to reach 25 percent recycled content in the United States within two years, even if Phoenix were Coke's only supplier.
But a key potential problem is the supply of post-consumer bottles, she said.
"The supply factor cannot be fixed in 12 months," she said.
Used PET bottles have been in short supply, in part because of exports to China, but Bina said Chinese demand has fallen off recently.