Hoping to tap into growing interest in recycling agricultural film, a new company plans to open a California facility to reprocess plastics used in farming.
Eno Plastics in March plans to open the West Coast's first washing line for agricultural plastics at a facility in Camarillo, Calif., where it plans to extrude and pelletize the dirty and challenging-to-handle film discarded from farmers' fields, said President Zack Xu.
``We know that we are taking on a challenge, but it has been done overseas,'' Xu said. ``All recyclers and producers are finding it difficult to source reliable material.''
Eno's decision comes amid signs of interest in recycling agricultural film in California, driven by both government agencies that say it's a significant part of the waste stream, and by the private sector, which is looking for new sources of recycled plastic while prices are high.
Other companies have studied similar projects. Plastic lumber maker Trex Co., for example, told a California government hearing in October it was looking at putting a washing line for film in the state, but company officials said this month that they have decided it does not make economic sense, at least for now.
In the past, efforts to recycle agricultural film have been hampered by unstable markets and difficulty in cost effectively cleaning the plastic. But Xu, a plastic industry broker whose family owns a small blow molding plant in China's Guangdong province, said Eno sees opportunities.
The 34,000-square-foot plant will include an extensive washing system, designed by Italian and Chinese consultants, and extruders to repelletize the material so it can be sold into the U.S. market, Xu said.
Xu is targeting both injection molding and film and bag markets, and said he hopes to broaden the facility into PET bottles and recycling of film and bags that California cities are starting to collect in their curbside systems.
The $1.6 million project is to be financed in part with an anticipated $900,000 low-interest loan from the state of California, and the rest from private sources, he said. The plant will employ 30 and have the capacity to recycle about 10 million pounds a year, with most of the raw material coming from Ventura County, where the facility is located, he said.
Xu said he decided to target agricultural films because there is already a system for collecting the low density polyethylene material, and farmers seem fairly educated about sorting it, in part because it saves them landfill disposal costs.
``We don't need to spend any money in sourcing the material and collecting it,'' Xu said.
Sending the film to landfills costs farmers about $40 a ton, and the county produces between 3,500 and 6,000 tons of film waste a year, said David Goldstein, an analyst with the Ventura County Environmental and Energy Resources Division.
Ventura County was very interested in attracting Eno and worked with state and local agencies to navigate environmental permits because the area faces state mandates to divert 50 percent of its waste stream, said Peter Kaiser, assistant manager in the department. Agricultural film makes up 2-3 percent of the waste in the rural parts of the county, Kaiser said.
Both Xu and Ventura County officials said it was challenging getting all the environmental permits for the facility.