Phoenix Technologies Inc. is spending millions of dollars to further integrate its recycled PET production by adding a new wash line.
The $18 million move, expected to be operational by the end of this year, is aimed at creating a more uniform recycled plastic feedstock. The new equipment will be able to initially handle more than half of the company's annual requirements.
“Over the years as we've grown, we‘ve grown our supply base. We have a number of suppliers and they've all been great suppliers. But if you can imagine, if you have 10 suppliers, you get 10 different types of quality infeed,” said Lori Carson, director of commercial operations at the Bowling Green, Ohio, company.
“So our main driver was trying to homogenize our quality of feed. So if we're processing most of what we're feeding into our resin operation, then our expectation is that the quality is more consistent from day to day,” she said.
Phoenix Technologies can process about 85 million pounds of recycled plastics each year, and the new wash line will be able to supply a little more than 50 million pounds of clean PET flake, Carson said.
Phoenix Technologies, a member of the Plastic Technologies Inc. family of companies, has looked at the potential of operating its own cleaning operation for years, but there was always one reason or another not to take that step until now.
“We're excited about making a forward leap in the quality aspect. At the end of the day, we hope that allows us to grow our market. That's what we're trying to do,” Carson said.
“Sometimes [recycled] PET isn't always spoken about in the most kind of words. So this is an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if we can help move the needle forward and help grow the market in general, that's a good thing for the recycling industry,'” she said.
The new wash line will be located in a 66,000-square-foot leased space near Phoenix Technologies' existing 90,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
The added work in Bowling Green is expected to create 30 new jobs to go along with the current 53 at the main plant, the company said.
As recycled content becomes more common and is being used at higher percentages, it is important to keep a sharp focus on quality, Carson said.
Maintaining a portion of the company's recycled plastic feedstock from outside suppliers, meanwhile, will help Phoenix Technologies keep a pulse on the overall market.
“You can always choose to expand, but what we've chosen to do is that we have good relationships on the outside in buying finished goods, raw materials. And our intention is to keep some of that in place. It allows us to know what's going on in the market for quality purposes,” she said. “It allows us to keep some supply relationships in place that are very good for us and we would like to continue.”
Phoenix Technologies uses recycled flake to create recycled PET pellets that are mostly used to make packaging.
The company, historically, has purchased clean flake or bales of bottles that were then processed by a third-party before being sent to Bowling Green to be extruded into pellets.
“Combining the total supply chain, from bale to final pellet, and its processes, will allow us to optimize both the wash and flake processing components in ways that we could not when clean flake was coming from external sources,” President Bob Deardurff said in a statement.
Bringing wash line duties to Bowling Green also means the company will improve its own environmental footprint because there will be less transportation of materials, Carson said.
Pellets created by Phoenix Technologies go to make a variety of packaging, including those serving the beverage, food, personal care and household cleaner markets.