Spurred by a belief that making products from recycled materials can boost recycling, create jobs and keep material out of landfills, Pennsylvania officials are helping plastic recycling entrepreneurs expand their fledgling businesses.
Pandya Inc. - which makes deck boards, parking blocks, picnic tables, stones for retaining walls and landscape blocks from recycled plastics at its Green Products division in Johnstown, Pa. - will use a $300,000 state grant to boost production capacity to 5,000 pounds a day from its current 3,000 pounds. Pandya received the Recycling Markets Infrastructure Development grant last month.
``We will be buying more washing equipment and palletizing equipment and have them up and running within a year,'' said President Himanshu Pandya, who launched Pandya as a computer services provider 25 years ago in Ebensburg, Pa.
The firm began manufacturing landscape products in 2003 from recycled household plastics collected by three nearby counties.
Pandya sees a bright future. ``Once this plant reaches its full material, we expect to expand,'' possibly in another location, he said. ``It is light material, and with fuel costs, the price per pound is too much and too expensive to transport.''
Waste Not Technologies LLC in Saylorsburg, Pa., will use its $124,000 state grant to add a grinder with capacity of 900 pounds an hour and a shredder with 1,000 pounds, said owner and President Pat Kelley. He plans to add the equipment ``sometime in the fall.'' The grant will cover 80 percent of its cost.
``We don't expect it to cut our costs, but it means we will be able to get the amount of supply we need to grow,'' he said. ``Our problem right now is that we have more orders than we can fill.''
Those orders are for the firm's rounded, textured fence posts and fence railings made from 100 percent recycled polypropylene, low and high density polyethylene, and polystyrene. The products' texture, with crevices a quarter-inch thick in some places, simulates tree bark.
``I wanted to develop a product that had high value for customers,'' said Kelley, a chemical engineer who worked in the blown film industry for 16 years and spent seven years developing his product before moving into production in 2004.
Waste Not's products are in use along trails in several parklands across the U.S. ``They attract attention from people looking for low maintenance and recycled content,'' he said.
Kelley said the equipment will give Waste Not the capability to use ``a lot of plastics that are not now being recycled,'' such as oil cans from auto repair shops and 5-gallon butter buckets from commercial food businesses.
``Originally, we thought that all we would have to do was call brokers,'' he said, but that supply source has not been reliable. The firm has recycled 100,000 pounds of plastics in the three years it has been making the fencing products. He expects to recycle another 1.3 million pounds over the next five years.
``You also have to have a stable amount of supply to attract investors,'' he added.