CHICAGO (July 14, 10:40 a.m. EDT) — Recycler Petco Plastics Inc., a subsidiary of Lavergne Group Inc., is adding a third extrusion line that substantially will boost its capacity to make sheet from recycled PET.
Petco's US$3 million expansion will add 12 million pounds of capacity, giving Montreal-based Petco a total annual capacity of 36 million pounds, said Jean-Luc Lavergne, president of Lavergne Group. Petco makes sheet from 100 percent recycled PET bottles.
While the firm's sheet business is good, he said, Anjou, Quebec-based Lavergne Group has experienced problems with its supply of recycled PET. The company stopped taking PET from curbside recycling systems about 13 months ago because barrier layers that beverage companies are putting into new juice containers and other products were ruining the company's sheet, Lavergne said.
The barrier layers enhance the performance of PET so that it can preserve juice and other products. But when they appear at too high levels in recycled PET, they discolor the material and make it too weak to be used at 100 percent levels in sheet, Lavergne said.
The company has been able to buy enough clean material from bottle-bill programs, and it is working on technology to remove barrier contaminants, which will allow the company to begin taking cheaper curbside material again, Lavergne said.
Lavergne officials said they understand that beverage companies need to develop new products, but they urged them to work more closely with recyclers. Michel Gosselin, Lavergne engineering manager, said too often beverage manufacturers do not disclose what materials they are using as barriers.
Jean-Luc Lavergne said the bottling industry is looking at compounding the barrier material directly into its bottle resin, which would be disastrous for recyclers like Lavergne because it would be much harder to remove.
He said his company knows that barrier layers are only going to get more prevalent and have to be dealt with by recyclers.
The impact of barrier layers is hotly debated in the recycling industry, and Lavergne said the company saw negative effects from them about six months before other recyclers because Petco uses 100 percent recycled material in its PET sheet.
Still, Lavergne said his business is good, both in Petco and in the company's recycling and compounding division for engineering resins. The firm's overall business is on target to grow 7-10 percent this year, to about US$44 million in total sales.
That growth came as the company has shed about US$5 million in lower-margin business in the last few months in recycling unfilled polypropylene, ABS and PC/ABS.
The firm wants to focus more on higher-margin businesses with recycled materials like fiberglass filled PET, filled nylon, filled PP, and its largely virgin resin compounding business with thermoplastic elastomers.
The company is trying to make more use of its proprietary process that mixes additives and chemicals with its recycled materials to make them equal to virgin in high-performance applications like automotive parts, Lavergne said. The firms wants to position itself less as a recycler and more as a regenerator of virgin-quality material, Lavergne said.
The company is putting a lot of work into R&D and internal efficiencies, and has cut its work force in half, to 120 employees, in the last 18 months while maintaining the same capacity, Lavergne said.
The company's engineered resin compounding business has about 100 million pounds of annual capacity.