Electronics and durable goods recycler MBA Polymers Inc. announced Oct. 27 it is building its second commercial-scale plant, this time in Austria, in a partnership with the country's largest metal recycler.
MBA, based in Richmond, Calif., will own 51 percent of the joint venture; Muller-Guttenbrunn GmbH of Amstetten, Austria, will own the rest. Their investment will total $15 million to $20 million.
MBA said it chose Austria because the European Union is set to implement large-scale recycling of electronics next year, and because the plant will be close to a developing plastics processing base in Eastern and central Europe. MBA announced earlier this year that it was locating its first plant in China.
Like the Chinese facility, the Austrian plant can process about 88 million pounds of waste plastic a year from durable goods like computers, cars and appliances, yielding 70-80 percent of that back as recycled plastic, said Mike Biddle, MBA's chairman and chief executive officer.
The Austrian plant will take the stream of plastic left after MG's metal recycling operation in Amstetten grinds up discarded products. It will produce polypropylene, ABS and high-impact polystyrene, he said. The companies said the venture, called MBA Polymers Austria-Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH, should be operating by the end of 2005.
The Austrian plant has a larger extrusion capacity than the Chinese plant, because it will sell 100 percent pellets, while the Chinese site sells both pellets and flake, Biddle said. The new plant will employ about 65.
MBA said it has spent about $28 million developing its process over the past decade, with three-quarters of that from private investors and about 25 percent coming from U.S. government sources and industry groups, including the American Plastics Council of Washington. Government funds came from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Biddle said he would like to put a commercial-scale plant in North America, but cannot find a way to get enough material delivered to his plant, which he characterizes as a high-volume recycling operation.
Most durable goods recyclers in the United States are too small scale to generate enough material to make it economical for MBA's process, but the government-mandated ``take-back'' recycling of electronics in Europe and some Asian countries changes the economics, Biddle said.
The company currently has a pilot-scale plant in Richmond.
``I would love to expand our plant or build a new plant in North America,'' Biddle said. ``The only thing holding us back is the sourcing and the financing. If we could find the sourcing, we could find the financing. In Asia and Europe, it's not a problem because of the take-back legislation.''
He said MBA is looking at other plants in Europe. Estimates from European plastics groups say the take-back legislation will generate 6 billion to 8 billion pounds of material each year, Biddle said.
While he declined to discuss cost specifics, Biddle said his process is cheaper than producing virgin resins, particularly with the run-up in prices from higher energy costs. MBA claims its process uses 10 percent of the energy that a virgin resin facility needs to produce plastic.