The $1 million agricultural film recycling plant of Viscotec-U.S. Inc. in Tulare, Calif., shifted into full production earlier this month after a series of delays that pushed back its expected launch by nearly 15 months.
``We are at full speed and full capacity,'' said plant manager Ron Olivares, who has a 25-year background in plant operations and production, but not plastics. He said the plant initially would process roughly 18 million pounds annually of irrigation drip tape and drip tubes, and rain caps used to cover grapevines. The site's extruder can process 2,000 pounds per hour.
``Those are very good materials because they are fairly clean,'' with little or no contamination, said Olivares, who joined Viscotec in December. ``We are hoping to reduce the amount of plastic material farmers have to landfill at $35-$70 a ton by 50 percent. These people just want to get it out of their fields and not have to take it to landfills and pay the tipping fee.''
It is the first U.S. plant for Viscotec, a subsidiary of Chuang Tieh Plastics Machine Manufactury Co. Ltd. of Tainan, Taiwan. The company, which has made recycling machinery since 1975, has opened five other plastics recycling plants since 2004 three of them in Indonesia and two in Malaysia with a combined capacity of 100 million pounds
The 80,000-square-foot leased plant initially will employ 30-50, hiring another 10-15 people when it adds a second and third line, both expected to be operating in about six months, Olivares said. The plant will grind, wash and repelletize the material.
``The second and third lines will be larger in terms of size and capacity. There is more than enough material, more than we can process,'' Olivares said. ``We could build a second plant and not have enough capacity to process it all. We are ultimately looking to expand both in California and other states.''
There are roughly 400 dairy farms in the Tulare area. Viscotec also is getting drip tape and tubes from Nevada, Olivares said.
He said the plant will operate around the clock, with workers on four-day, 12-hour shifts followed by four consecutive days off.
Initially, the pellets made in Tulare will be shipped to Taiwan, according to Gary Schulz, Viscotec's senior market strategist. They will be used to make garbage bags, deck lumber and speed bumps.
Olivares said the first pellet shipments will not be made until June.