Dennis Denton sees the new 30 million-pound PET recycling plant he and two partners are building in St. Helens, Ore., as the prototype for the way plastics will be recycled in the future and not just the first PET recycling plant in the Pacific Northwest.
We are creating a technology and a system that we will be able to replicate and take to other areas, said Denton, president of plastics recycler Denton Plastics Inc. in Portland, Ore. Our system will be very viable and economical and it will be able to go deeper in the waste stream for material.
Denton is the organizing partner in Orpet, which includes the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. The cooperative manages 95 percent of the recyclable bottles collected through the state's bottle bill. Another partner is Tom Leaptrott, owner of Quantum Leap LLC, a Vancouver, Wash., supplier of packaging materials and plastic bags used in the recycling industry.
The Orpet plant is designed to be a regional facility and I think all plastics recycling will be regional in the years to come, Denton said in a recent phone interview. All you need is a good urban area, and away you go.
It's a strategy that others hope to capitalize on as well.
PET recycler Phoenix Technologies International LLC of Bowling Green, Ohio, embarked on a similar project in June, when it announced plans to build more than a dozen modular PET recycling plants to produce food-grade recycled PET in North America by the end of 2011.
Phoenix's sister company, PTI Recycling Systems LLC of Holland, Ohio, expects to build between eight and 18 such plants outside North America in the next two years. Both companies are part of Plastic Technologies Inc., also based in Holland.
Denton said it will cost $5 million to install and buy the grinding, separating and washing equipment for the first phase of the Orpet project, which is scheduled to begin operating in the second quarter of 2010. He said Orpet has not yet chosen the specific systems and equipment for the plant.
We are putting in specifications for the most efficient machines for the process, Denton said. The new technologies we are putting in place will be a change in the way plastics is recycled. It will be like going from a prop airplane to a jet airplane.
Initially, there will be capacity to process 15 million pounds of PET flake annually, he said. The second phase of the project calls for construction of a second plant on the site to boost capacity to 30 million pounds annually and to add the ability to produce pellets.
We will make both flakes and pellets after the second plant is built, Denton said, because industrial and institutional companies are interested in flake, and food and packaging companies are interested in pellets. They are two separate and distinct markets.
The plant will start with about 50 employees, but I think we will be pushing 100 by the time we are done, Denton said.
Long range, perhaps three years from now, Denton said Orpet plans to form joint ventures and build recycling plants with companies that need recycled PET, such as firms that thermoform clamshell containers.
The Orpet plant will boost the state's economy, and that is what the three partners want, he said.
Our vision was that we wanted to create jobs and keep valuable raw material in the state rather than continue the current practice of shipping recycled PET bottles to Asia. Rather than exporting bottles, we will now be able to turn our recycled plastic bottles into a valuable raw material.
Mechanical recycling is at the top of the food chain for the environment, said Denton. You can make a useful product without having to make [a resin] from scratch and you can reuse the material and recycle it again, unlike projects that turn recycled plastics into fuel.
In addition, the plant will be built to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. The plant will include rooftop solar panels, building materials that contain recycled content and a number of features to conserve energy. It will be designed so rainwater can be harvested at the plant site.
We want to have a zero negative environmental impact, he said.
Denton said the addition of water bottles to the state's nickel deposit program was the impetus for starting the project, as it created the critical mass needed to operate a PET recycling plant in Oregon.
The amount of PET recycled and collected in Oregon is projected to be 14 million pounds in 2009 and 20 million pounds in 2010, compared with the 9 million pounds collected and recycled in 2008.
Denton Plastics is the largest plastics recycler in Oregon, with an estimated annual volume of 36 million pounds. About 75 percent of that figure comes from commercial and industrial recycling, according to the company.
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