Envision Plastics Industries LLC is planning expansions at both of its plants, is on the prowl for acquisitions, and is taking aim at a new market - food-grade recycled high density polyethylene resins - with potentially explosive growth.
Interest ``is hot again'' in Food and Drug Administration-approved HDPE post-consumer resin because of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s packaging scorecard and sustainability initiative, said Tamsin Ettefagh, vice president of Reidsville, N.C.-based Envision. Also, an HDPE food-grade program developed in Europe is attracting interest in the United States, she said.
Recycled-content proposals in New Jersey and California also could cause mandates that would boost recycled content in containers.
``We are getting a very positive response from customers who are green-minded and who are looking to actively include recycled content in a safe manner,'' said Ettefagh. ``We want to be ready and strike while the fire is hot.''
Envision already is a dominant force in supplying natural and custom-color recycled HDPE resins for products such as laundry and detergent containers. But its new thrusts aren't surprising for a company with an estimated $70 million in sales running at 100 percent capacity. The company claims it has grown sevenfold in the past six years in both sales and the amount of plastic its recycles, roughly 100 million pounds.
The company's niche is supplying custom-colored resins that reduce the amount of colorants customers need to use, and allowing them to use copolymer resins that have better crack resistance.
Envision, the fourth-largest recycler in North America according to Plastics News' recent ranking, and the second-largest recycler of HDPE, is keenly aware of blossoming markets for color resins in containers. Introducing food-grade recycled HDPE resins could open the door for Envision to expand its Prisma-brand color resins. The firm is targeting companies that use FDA food-grade material for nonfood lines - such as overwraps for toilet paper and paper towels - and that do not want to use two different processes in their manufacturing and clean the lines when they change processes.
A new food-grade recycling line planned for Envision's plant in Chino, Calif., is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2008. That expansion will include wash tanks and repelletizing equipment for a line capable of recycling 12 million pounds of HPDE annually.
``We are going to go back into personal care, milk bottles and juice bottles,'' said Parham Yedidsion, one of Envision's two co-owners. ``We feel the FDA line will blow the lid off the market for personal-care products [whose makers] are actively looking to satisfy the demands of their customers to become more environmentally responsible.''
Envision also expects the line to open up the market for vitamin bottles, and frozen-food bags and other film markets such as overwrap on food packages, said Ettefagh. ``It is cleaner resin that is so much better for bottles, sheet and film,'' she said. ``The Wal-Mart sustainability initiative has opened doors for markets that aren't traditionally ours. Film producers are giving us calls.''
``Wal-Mart alone is going to move the market forward,'' Yedidsion said.
Yedidsion and President Massoud Rad bought Envision six years ago. Its 40,000-square-foot plant in Chino recycles roughly 3 million pounds of HDPE monthly. Its 85,000-square-foot plant in Reidsville recycles 5 millions pounds of HDPE monthly. Envision employs about 100.
The company has shifted from selling resins for low-end pipe and profiles into color resins for laundry and detergent bottles. Yedidsion said the Reidsville plant also is ``due for another expansion by the beginning of 2008.''
One reason for Envision's continuing success, Yedidsion said, is a team of managers with industry experience. ``We brought personnel into the company that are veterans of the industry and we work to have close partnerships with customers so that we can have interdependant relationships,'' said Yedidsion.
In addition, Ettefagh said the company's approach to supply has been strength. ``We pay market price, we are always a buyer and have a very strong financial backing that puts our suppliers' mind at ease and encourages them to grow with us,'' she said.
What's more, collaborative relationships with several of its suppliers - such as Casella Waste Systems' FCR recycling unit in Charlotte, N.C., and Allan Co. in Baldwin Park, Calif. - enable Envision to build a stronger and more consistent supplier network for the long term, she said.