DAK Americas LLC is investing $32 million to expand its PET recycling plant in Richmond, Ind., to meet demand from major consumer product companies for more recycled content in beverage bottles.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based company said it plans to add two repelletizing lines in Indiana, its first significant investment there since it bought the operation in early 2019.
"The current primary focus of the expansion is to feed [recycled] PET back into the beverage and food packaging markets … meeting the needs of our customers to support growing consumer demand for increased recycled content in consumer products," said Antonio Garza, vice president of recycling for Alpek Polyester. Alpek is part of Alfa SAB de CV of Monterrey, Mexico.
The investment will give Alpek its first capability in North America to directly make recycled resin pellets, rather than the recycled PET flake for food packaging uses that the facility had been making.
Alpek has a plant in Argentina making recycled PET resin pellets and flake for food-grade applications.
The Indiana facility currently has annual capacity to make about 100 million pounds per year of recycled flake. But each new line will have the capacity to make about 33 million pounds of pellets from those flakes, including raising the intrinsic viscosity to allow the recycled PET to be used back into bottles, DAK said.
The repelletizing lines are scheduled to come on stream in the third and fourth quarters of 2021, said Alpek spokesperson Ricky Lane.
Additional investments in the site include four silos for both PET flake and pellets, as well as material loading upgrades, new buildings, labs and auxiliary equipment, and electrical system upgrades, he said.
"The expansion demonstrates [our] commitment to PET recycling and meeting the needs of our customers to support growing consumer demand for increased recycle content in consumer products," Lane said.
DAK bought the facility, which opened in 2010, from Perpetual Recycling Solutions LLC in January 2019.
DAK also has a fiber-grade PET flake recycling operation in Fayetteville, N.C., Clear Path Recycling LLC, in a joint venture with carpet maker Shaw Industries Group. That facility, which the company said makes it one of the largest PET recyclers in North America, sends its production to Shaw carpet plants, DAK said.
DAK said it's also the largest producer of virgin PET resin and expanded polystyrene in the Americas.
The company's expansion plans in Richmond had run into a hiccup with local government officials in March, when neighbors came to a city zoning board to complain about plastic litter from the site and insects and animals drawn to the food containers stored there.
But Lane said the company gained approval of city officials in March, after presenting details of site infrastructure improvements they had made both since buying the operation last year and that would come with the investment.
"Unfortunately, we inherited many legacy issues of poor past performance at the site and are well set to correct and improve those issues as new owners committed to the community and the environment," he said.
Local economic development officials said the expansion will create 30 jobs and said the company would receive $140,000 in grants to help with project costs, along with $270,000 in conditional tax credits based on meeting hiring goals.