For the second time in three years, a fire has destroyed a plastics recycling plant in Longview, Texas, owned by Southwest Plastic and Fiber Recycling Inc. The owner's son, Mike Thompson - who is also materials and production coordinator - said the company plans to rebuild on the site.
Longview fire investigator Jimmy Purcell said in a Sept. 6 telephone interview that no cause had been determined yet for the Sept. 5 fire, which started in the warehouse section of the plant. The fire did not damage a metal structure 100 feet away that houses an extrusion line or an office building 10 feet from the plant.
The company has shifted some work to nearby facilities in Gladewater and Scottsville, Texas. All 20 employees in Longview are still working for the company. None of the four workers in the plant when the fire started were seriously hurt, he said. Two of them were treated by medics at the scene - one for smoke inhalation and the other for minor knee injuries that occurred when he fell. No one was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The plant - the largest of the three recycling facilities owned by the Longview company - shred and ground 120,000-160,000 pounds daily of polyethylene and polypropylene. Thompson said he does not think the company will be able to salvage any of the plant's recycling equipment, which included a film and fiber shredder, two grinders, a horizontal baler and a wash line with two spin dryers. The company also lost about 400,000 pounds of inventory.
Purcell said the fire began near a gaylord filled with shredded plastic. The plant was not required to have a sprinkler system when it was granted an operating permit in February, he said.
Southwest had improved water lines and added fire hydrants near the plant as part of a settlement with the city after a previous fire at another Longview location. In that case, the city filed a lawsuit alleging that the company's plant that was destroyed by a fire of undetermined cause in 2003 did not meet operating standards or fire safety codes.
When the company rebuilds the recently destroyed plant, new fire codes will require a sprinkler system.
Thompson said the company has been operating in Longview for about 12 years.
The Gladewater plant shreds 40,000 pounds daily of injection-grade polyethylene and Scottsville shreds about 80,000 pounds daily of high density polyethylene.
The plastics that are recycled by Southwest are used to make, among other things, flower pots, water meter bases and nursery trays.