Trex Co. Inc. of Winchester is spending at least $5 million to duplicate its Spanish recycling operation in the United States, an investment that will give it the flexibility to use much dirtier streams of plastic film and let it boost production of its composite lumber.
The expansion gives Trex its first U.S. washing and sorting capabilities, said Dave Heglas, Trex's site manager.
The investment will let the company accept streams of plastic bags, for example, that include contaminants such as food waste and cans and bottles, Heglas said.
The company launched the Spanish subsidiary last year as a way primarily to recycle PE waste from agricultural films. In the United States, though, the expansion will process materials from contaminated post-consumer PE sources, in addition to agricultural waste collected from as far away as Florida and California.
``We are adding equipment to tap into a different kind of film that is available,'' Heglas said. ``It is film that nobody wants.''
The Winchester operation should be working by the end of 2002 or early 2003, he said. It will have the same capacity as the Spanish facility, capable of processing 50 million pounds a year.
Trex modified one of its existing buildings in Winchester to accommodate the 25,000-square-foot operation. The expansion is 90 percent complete, he said.
Trex can get enough plastic now from relatively clean streams to handle its current production, but it anticipates strong growth in its core wood-plastic lumber business in the next few years and views the new recycling investment as a precaution, Heglas said.
``It gives us choices,'' he said. ``We have domestic plastic. We have foreign plastic. We have domestic plastic [that] we do have to clean and domestic plastic we don't have to clean. ... As we're growing, we find we can't just deal with the same types of plastics we had before.''
Heglas spoke May 16, during a media tour of Winchester-area companies arranged by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
The Spanish plant, in El Ejido, sends much of its material back to Trex in the United States for use in the company's wood-plastic composite lumber. The Spanish plant is working well but still is ramping up to full capacity, Heglas said.
The feedstock material is collected in Spain's heavy agricultural region, in the southeast. Spain needed to boost recycling to meet European Union requirements, and looked at agricultural waste as a way to do that, Heglas said.