Thermoformer and sheet extruder Placon Corp. will construct a closed-loop recycling facility to wash and regrind post-consumer bottles and thermoformed packaging for processing into its newly commercialized EcoStar-brand sheet products.
Fitchburg, Wis.-based Placon said the move will offer its customers more choices of materials, including up to 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET.
The recycling facility will be located in Fitchburg and will be completed in two phases, the company said. In the first phase, to be complete in the third quarter of 2010, Placon will add an additional extruder for its EcoStar rollstock. Phase two will be the addition of the bottle washing equipment, scheduled to be operational in the first quarter of 2011, with plans for additional extruders to follow.
Our EcoStar sheet now requires less total energy to produce and will further help our customers meet their sustainability goals. CEO Dan Mohs said in a May 12 news release. We're excited to bring bottle cleaning and sheet production together in a continuous process loop. Our factory design will streamline operations while delivering the recycled sheet products the market requires.
According to state officials, Placon will receive $250,000 in tax credits from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to help finance construction of the facility, which will cost $8 million. The project is expected to retain 326 jobs and create 26 new jobs over the next three years with the potential to add 44 positions to Placon's workforce.
In a May 13 telephone interview, Mohs said the two-part project involves revamping an existing warehouse and building an addition to house a Davis-Standard LLC extrusion line. He said the overall cost is closer to $10 million.
Recycled plastics should provide enough materials to eventually add more machinery to the facility, he said.
We have an objective to fill the plant with four extrusion lines; we think it will be adequate to fill most if not all of that, Mohs said.
Placon has been using recycled content in its packaging for more than 15 years, and claims that since 2003 it has kept more than 1 billion PET bottles out of landfills.
In addition to EcoStar sheet, the new facility will produce letter of non-object flake, allowing food contact with recycled material. Placon has also launched an RF sealable recycled PET grade of material (EcoStar HS 1000) to address customers' bar sealing requirements for PET.
According to Placon, with minor process adjustments the material can be a direct replacement for PVC sealing applications.
Mohs acknowledged that recycling thermoform material is unusual, but said that's an area where Placon sees opportunity.
That's a newer area, less developed, so I would consider that a fair amount of pioneering [will be involved]. We already have small sources for thermoform out there and we'll develop that further, Mohs said. That's the future; our vision is to create the market for recycled thermoform and to be a leader in that area.
Laura Stewart, Placon's vice president of sales and marketing, chairs the thermoforming committee of the National Association for PET Container Resources, and that committee has been pushing lately for more inclusion of thermoformed materials recycling, Mohs said.
To some small degree that is a function of that [NAPCOR membership], he said. But to a greater extend, we're out in the marketplace like another company doing a lot of research and I think there's a convergence of things pointing to this as an ideal strategic position for our company.
Placon ranked 22nd among North American thermoformers in Plastics News' most recent industry survey, with annual sales of $86 million. The firm employs about 300.
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