Eno Plastics LLC has decided to enter rigid HDPE container recycling, after recently expanding its agricultural film operation with a second line for washing, grinding and palletizing films.
General Manager Stan Kezar said that the Camarillo, Calif., firm will use a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the state Department of Conservation to launch post-consumer high density polyethylene recycling with a 1,000-pound-an-hour wash line by May 2009, and a second wash line, of the same capacity, by year-end 2009.
``We will put in a state-of-the-art sorting line to separate out different resins, and to add more size-reduction equipment, a proprietary wash system and some blending systems,'' he said by phone. The 37-year industry veteran joined Eno in July 2006 from Talco Plastics Inc. in Corona, Calif.
``Once the HDPE wash lines and the new sorting line are up and running, we will take the two materials and do some formulations to market injection molding compounds for companies who can't use bottle-grade post-consumer resins.''
The company also is continuing to expand in agricultural film recycling with a third wash line to be installed by August and operating by October. That line will be financed with a $750,000 loan from the state's Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Program, Kezar said. Part of that loan, obtained in November, was used for the second line, which started in April.
Kezar said the second agricultural film line can process 1,500-1,800 pounds an hour, more than doubling Eno's capacity to 30 million pounds a year. Eno shreds the recycled plastics into flake, washes and dries it, and then extrudes it into pellets.
The second line has a larger washer, an upsized dryer and a shredder that is 25 percent larger with twice the horsepower, he said. The firm also boosted capacity of its original line. The combined investment in the facility, begun four years ago by President Zack Xu, is now at $4.5 million, Kezar said. Xu is a plastics broker whose family owns a small blow molding plant in China.
``It took us longer than anticipated to get the second line installed. We are about six months behind where we wanted to be,'' Kezar said. ``It was just a matter of timing and getting to the point where we could comfortably run two lines. We have made all the mistakes and are now very comfortable with our operations.''
One of the challenges, Kezar said, continues to be a high level of contamination of the mulch or ground-cover film it reprocesses, along with the drip tape and greenhouse or hoop-house film used in nurseries.
``You have a 40-50 percent contamination level of dirt and produce. So the wear and tear on the equipment is incredible. Most of our downtime is changing the knives and the augers,'' he said.
In addition, he said there is a huge variety of agricultural films.
``Different manufacturers use different adhesives, and the thinner the material, the harder it is to process,'' he said.
Most of what Eno processes is mulch film that comes in black, black and white, green, and clear and is 1-1.5 millimeters thick. Greenhouse and hoop films are between 4-6mm. Eno does not take fumigation film used prior to reseeding, because it has a very low density as well as a painted adhesive, Kezar said.
Demand for Eno's end product is high, he said.
``It is a sold-out situation. There is a lot of demand,'' particularly for custom formulations of low and linear low PE, HDPE, and pellets that can be used to make drip tape one of the products it recycles.
``The biggest challenge for us will be when wash line three goes in, because the economics will change dramatically and production will double almost automatically,'' he said.
The third line will have capacity for more than 2,000 pounds of film per hour. Eno plans to shut down its original line temporarily, to revamp it again and boost its output of 1,200-1,500 pounds an hour. The line was launched in November 2006.
The expansion into rigid container recycling is designed to give Eno a broader selling market, as well as a new source of raw material, he said.
``Rigid containers are kind of like a mountain for us to climb,'' he admitted. But, he said, it gives the firm a feedstock that is less seasonal and more available.
``We don't plan on being a small recycler,'' he added. ``We will be bumping up some serious pounds pretty quickly and think we can compete with Talco and Envision Plastics not in bottles, but in pounds.''
He said Eno will continue to focus on the California market.