Plastic has replaced glass in so many applications over the years.
And now a group in New Jersey wants to take a former glass plant and turn it into a plastics recycling facility that could serve as the basis for a commerce park.
Anthony DeSantis and his Millville Plastics LLC has received the backing of local government officials to transform the former Wheaton Glass plant in Millville.
Initial work will involve renovation of existing space to create a recycling facility to take in bales of plastics for separation, grinding and washing to create clean flake. From there, DeSantis said, the recycled plastics will be used to make food-grade, sheet and fiber products. The company expects to concentrate on PET and high density polyethylene and possibly handle polypropylene as well.
"It used to be a former glass plant. Obviously, glass has been slowly transferring to plastic. So we couldn't think of a better location ... to just basically follow that trend," he said.
The former glass plant has plenty of room for redevelopment along with rail access, so DeSantis sees the opportunity to attract manufacturers to take advantage of proximity to the recycling operations. Those could include sheet makers or finished goods manufacturers.
DeSantis has been working on the project with two other partners — his father Concezio DeSantis and Gary Porat — for about three years.
He expects work to transform the property to a recycling operation will take a year or two. "We need to customize the building in order to meet the needs of not only ourselves but anybody coming in with us," he said.
During the time Millville Plastics has been working on the project, China has once again cracked down on imports of recycled materials, including plastics. And that, DeSantis believes will boost domestic recycling efforts.
"The China ban has actually helped us, because what it did is that it [caused] the United States to keep the material inhouse and find additional uses for that. Whereby, if we keep the material inhouse it will create further jobs and we can start using our own raw materials for products being made in the United States," he said.
Initial plastic recycling activities will take about 100,000 square feet.
DeSantis said his company will be at the upcoming NPE2018 in Orlando, Fla., to scout for processing equipment as well as look for manufacturing partners interested in locating at the facility. The availability of inexpensive electricity at the site will be an attraction, he said.
The plastics recycling operation would initially employ about 60 and grow over time, DeSantis said.
He expects about 80 percent of the recycled plastics will come from the Northeast while about 20 percent would be imported for the estimated $15 million to $20 million recycling project. The former glass plant has more than 2 million square feet in multiple buildings that could ultimately be redeveloped.
Millville Mayor Michael Santiago could not be reached for comment about the redevelopment, but was quoted in the local news as supporting the project.