Spurred by increased interest in recycled-content PET beverage bottles, South Carolina recycler United Resource Recovery Corp. plans to build its first commercial-scale plant in the United States.
URRC said Feb. 26 that it plans to open the 40 million-pound-per-year factory in either North Carolina or South Carolina early next year.
The company, which is one of the few firms with Food and Drug Administration approval to recycle containers collected in curbside systems back into food-contact containers, currently has a 10 million-pound-per-year pilot plant at its Spartanburg, S.C., headquarters.
The company also announced new details on licensing agreements in Europe and Mexico. A German firm, SKP Recycling AG & Co., started operating a 30 million-pound-per-year plant in February in Rostock, Germany. SKP is part of the large United Kingdom-based waste hauler Cleanaway Ltd. That license covers all of Western Europe.
In Mexico, URRC said it sold licensing rights to an unidentified company late last year. A 30 million-pound-per-year plant is scheduled to start there in early 2003.
The deals are a significant boost for URRC's patented partial-depolymerization technology, which works by cleaning the surface contaminants from recycled PET and also deep-cleaning the polymer, said Gerry Fishbeck, URRC vice president of operations.
Previously, the company only had a pilot plant and one licensee, for a 30 million-pound-per-year operation in Frauenfeld, Switzerland. That plant began operating in 2000.
Fishbeck said in a telephone interview that the company now sees enough interest in recycled- content PET beverage containers in the United States, including from Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsi-Cola Co., to build the new operation.
The ``larger portion'' of the plant's capacity will go into beverage containers, he said.
The company declined to describe capital investment or the number of employees it will have at its new plant. The facility will be 45,000 square feet, Fishbeck said.
URRC believes that curbside systems - not the much cleaner materials that come from bottle deposit programs - will supply most of the increases in recycled plastics in the future. That's why the company has focused on developing its UnPET technology to clean and process the curbside stream economically, Fishbeck said.
The company said its process also has been sanctioned for direct food-contact use by governments in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Canada and Mexico.
``We have only begun to scratch the surface of the applications that can benefit from the use of this technology,'' URRC President Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement.