Strong demand for food-grade recycled PET is triggering another expansion, this time by Custom Polymers PET LLC.
The firm's $10 million food-grade recycled PET pellet plant in Athens, Ala. with an annual capacity of 25 million pounds opened in January. Already the company is considering an expansion, an official said June 24 at NPE2009 in Chicago.
We hope to be producing at full-capacity at that plant by the end of the third quarter, said John Calhoun II, a partner in parent firm Custom Polymers Inc. of Charlotte, N.C. We are looking at adding more extrusion lines or washing capacity in Athens, or both.
We are looking to make a decision by the third quarter.
The 200,000-square-foot, three-building complex in Athens has a 50,000-square-foot site producing 25-food-grade pellets using Erema's Vacurema PET extrusion technology; two wash and sort lines in an 80,000-square-foot plant using Custom technology to wash 50 million pounds of PET regrind annually; and a 70,000-square-foot warehouse.
Calhoun said it would take about a year to construct another 50,000-square-foot building in Athens and gear it up for production.
We are looking to grow that business significantly over the next two to three years, Calhoun said. That is our focus right now. We feel like we can grow the PET side of our business in a rather short order to be as big as [the parent company]. This year the PET business is expected to reach $20 million in sales, he said. In 2008, the parent firm's sales were $50 million, and the PET portion reprocessed and sold 256 million pounds of plastic.
We expect to pick up significant market share because a lot of smaller players aren't able to weather the economic storm, said Calhoun's co-partner, Phil Howerton.
[Custom Polymers has] been growing at 20 percent annually for a long time, he said. But our growth in 2009 will probably be 10-15 percent.
We are trying to capitalize on the green movement to put raw material back into product, Calhoun added.
The company acquired the recycled PET business from Spenaco Inc. in 2005.
Custom Polymers' Customers include beverage-bottle blow molders and extruders of sheet for thermoformed food packaging.
Beyond the Athens expansion plans, the firm is looking to grow by acquisition and expansion overseas. I think what is next on our radar screen is maybe having a presence in Europe, he said. I would like to check that off our list in the next couple of years.
We like to buy small companies under the radar screen with sales of $5 million to $10 million, leave the management team in place and make them a partner, Calhoun said.
The firm has an extrusion operation in Toluca, Mexico Mafer/IRP that reprocesses PET and polypropylene. It did $12 million in 2008 sales.