Recycling technology firm Polyflow LLC recently harvested scrap plastic and rubber from the Cuyahoga River as part of a community cleanup effort.
Akron, Ohio-based Polyflow worked with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association and more than 150 volunteers to gather more than 300 pounds of plastic and rubber waste from several points on the 100-mile river during the RiverDay 2010 event May 15. Volunteers also gathered more than 60 bags of trash, 150 pounds of steel and scrap metal and almost 50 tires.
The event was held on the 41st anniversary of the infamous Cuyahoga River fire, when industrial waste caused part of the river to catch fire in Cleveland. The fire was a turning point in the U.S. environmental movement and helped lead to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Water Act.
Since the fire, the Cuyahoga River's water quality has improved greatly. It was named an American Heritage River by the EPA in 1998, one of only 14 nationwide to be so honored.
Polyflow will use the plastic and rubber waste from the river in a June 11 demonstration of its pilot unit in Akron. The firm's pyrolysis technology can melt down any type of plastic and rubber scrap and convert it into a liquid that contains styrene, benzene and other aromatic chemicals that can then be re-sold.
In a May 21 phone interview, Polyflow Chairman Joe Hensel said the firm still is negotiating with two or three communities in the Cleveland-Akron area to find a location for Polyflow's first permanent plant.
We're still working on tax credits that will help with our financing, he said.
Polyflow already has plastic waste supply agreements in place with the Akron suburb of Stow, Ohio, and with Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio. But the firm still needs additional investment to fund a full-time unit. To date, almost $2 million in investment capital has been raised.
Investments have picked up this year, Hensel said. People have been complaining about end-of-life for plastics for years. We're convinced we have the answer.
Last year, Polyflow made the first commercial sale of chemicals made through its process. That sale was made to petrochemicals supplier Bulk Trading & Transport Co. of Cleveland. Hensel said Polyflow hopes to make its second commercial sale by the end of the year.
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