Recycler Steve Keck got into plastics almost as an afterthought, when a customer came to his paperboard recycling company with some plastic it wanted to get rid of.
Today, grinding up discarded plastic is two-thirds of the business for his company, Somerset Recycling Services Inc., and that amount is climbing.
The Somerset, Ky.-based firm has grown steadily since a fire wiped out its factory in 1997. The company rebuilt and has grown from $3 million in sales in 2000 to more than $9 million last year. It's looking at an expansion that would boost production capacity by two-thirds, to 50 million pounds, he said.
The expansion is not definite, but the company has lined up land and financing and is more than likely going to build in the next year, Keck said. The company has spent about $2 million since the 1997 fire on capital equipment, and it expects to do about $11.5 million in sales this year.
Its plastics business has grown, he said, because the company initially found that there wasn't as much competition in plastics recycling as in the more-developed paper markets. But Keck said high prices for virgin and recycled plastics are changing that, bringing new entrants to the market and pushing Somerset to seek out new business, including internationally.
The company mainly deals in polyethylene, mostly sorting, grinding and densifying the material and then selling it to pipe, toy, decking and pallet makers.