Nicole Janssen has seen a number of changes and challenges in her 16 years as vice president of Denton Plastics Inc.
But as her father, Dennis Denton, becomes chairman and she moves into the president's seat, she now has the opportunity to craft her own vision for the Portland, Ore.-based plastics recycler.
We have a very strong team of employees here with what's already been created, said Janssen, who took over as president April 30. I want to build on the foundation that is already set and grow the company. This year, we are looking at about 10 percent growth and I want growth to be more than that.
One of the items at the top of her list is creating more partnerships that will move the company forward, ensure sources of supply and service customers better.
That is my vision, she said. We have some partnerships where we get scrap and regrind from some people that we sell to. We want to increase the number of those partnerships and expand those relationships in other ways. That keeps material here and creates a loop where we get supply and so do our customers.
Janssen also said that she wants to develop partnerships with companies, such as material recovery facilities. We want to help them to separate the material, Janssen said, rather than bundle it into bales that are mostly exported to China.
Down the road, I could see joint ventures or joint investments in equipment to clean the plastic that is recycled, she said.
Like other recyclers faced with increasing costs and prices, Denton is investing in technologies that increase yields and reduce energy use.
We are getting a new 6-inch extruder this year that will reduce our power usage and process more pounds of material more efficiently, said Janssen. And we are getting some new equipment to clean material.
The new extruder will go on line in the third quarter and replace the one currently in use. We will have a 40-50 percent increase in efficiency, she said. We will be able to produce more than 2,000 pounds of recycled pellets a month. The firm's current output is 1,400 pounds. That change has the potential to boost Denton's annual pellet volume from 12 million pounds to 18 million pounds.
The company currently recycles 36 million pounds of plastic 75 percent from industrial and commercial sources and it expects to do more.
Denton has had a fairly decent upswing in business since the beginning of the year, Janssen said. I think the plastic recycling market is going to continue to grow. Recyclers are going to have more and more opportunities.
The whole sustainability, green movement is big for us. It has opened people's eyes, she said. There are a lot of opportunities to develop products and markets. We can help companies realize energy savings by using recycled instead of virgin resin.
Not everyone is willing to pay as much for recycled as they do for virgin resin, which can present problems, she said. But recycled resins are now in vogue, she said, and people are looking at how to incorporate it into different products.
Thee biggest day-to-day challenge, however, remains, supply, and how China affects it.
Supply is always a critical issue, Janssen said. Supply has been down so long with manufacturing down. In addition, being in the Pacific Northwest, there have been a lot of plant closings in the past 10 years, as a number of manufacturers have moved overseas or to Mexico.
We are looking at different technologies to recapture more material from the waste stream.
Compounding those supply problems are rising transportation costs. Supply of trucks is down and demand is up, she said. We have had to pay higher and higher costs to get our supply.
As for China: They play a large role, Janssen said. The industry exports so much material, that China drives price. If they buy a lot, prices go up. If they drop out of the market, prices go down.
To manage exposure to price fluctuations and have more control over supplies, she said more partnerships like the ORPET Oregon partnership project, where her dad is the organizing partner, may be the solution.
ORPET will begin construction before year's end on a new 30 million-pound PET recycling plant in St. Helens, Ore. The ORPET partners all have a vested stake in keeping the material in the area, so recyclers and manufacturers can secure the supplies they need, and companies that collect material have a local outlet for it.
The other ORPET partners are the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which manages 95 percent of the recyclable bottles collected through the state's bottle bill, and Tom Leaptrott, owner of Quantum Leap LLC, a Vancouver, Wash., supplier of packaging materials and plastic bags used in the recycling industry.
How this functions will provide us insight into how we can develop partnerships in the future and what we can do with other materials, Janssen said. The idea is to keep everything local. Manufacture here, recycle here and then sell supply back to the company here that makes the products.
During the next two to three years, she hopes to expand on 2 acres of vacant land Denton owns adjacent to its plant and headquarters. That would give us the ability to get into more markets, grow our lab, do more [research and development] work, create more formulas and work with companies to help them grow their business.
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