Plastics recycler Empire Polymer Solutions LLC, a joint venture between a post-industrial recycling company and venture capital firm Buchanan Empire LLC, plans to invest $7.1 million on a new facility in New York state for hard-to-recycle plastics.
EPS is taking over an abandoned former injection molding plant near Syracuse, N.Y., and refurbishing it to mainly handle post-consumer plastics, according to President Frank Murphy.
"We're going to be entering into the post-consumer market," Murphy said. "To compete in that market, especially in today's environment, we're going to need bigger equipment and more output to keep our costs under control."
EPS is owned 50 percent each by Empire Resource Recycling Inc., a Rochester, N.Y., company Murphy founded, and Buchanan Empire, according to documents the company filed with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency, as part of an application seeking up to $2.4 million in local tax benefits.
Rochester-based ERR recycles rigid post-industrial plastics like garbage totes, buckets, pails and drums and sells to end markets like pipe.
EPS will set up operations in a 205,000-square-foot facility in Baldwinsville, N.Y., that formerly housed an injection molding facility for Syroco Inc. That plant closed in 2007, with a loss of 154 jobs, and has since fallen into disrepair, according to OCIDA documents.
EPS said it will have 70 jobs in its new factory.
Murphy said there are business opportunities for EPS with changes in the global recycling market, particularly with China and Asia stopping imports of lower-quality plastics from the United States and other countries.
Those materials have built up in the U.S. without the export markets they used to go to. Murphy said he's designed and built customized equipment, including wash lines, to handle them domestically.
"I saw this opportunity for lower-quality, mixed-rigid materials," Murphy said.
In Baldwinsville, the company is looking at post-consumer high density polyethylene, as well as bales of mixed vinyl, low density PE, polypropylene, polystyrene and other grades, so-called 3-7 bales, he said.
EPS would pull out the PP for recycling, then try to find uses for the remaining material, he said.
"We're working on developing some processes to use the waste out of a 3 through 7 [bale]," he said. "We're going to try very hard to take that leftover material, reformulate it and make products from it."
The Baldwinsville facility will start post-industrial grinding operations later this year and begin post-consumer operations in early 2021, including a compounding operation later next year.
But first, EPS needs to repair and refurbish the former Syroco building, which sat vacant for more than a decade, he said.
"It's going to cost a lot money to put it back into shape," Murphy said. "I've got everything ready on the computer, I just need to put it on the floor. The slowdown's going to be preparing the building."
He said the company has already bought much of the equipment but had a lengthy search to find the right location, with rail spur access, silos and proximity to major cities in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada for access to the recycled raw material.
In the future, Murphy said EPS is considering manufacturing its own products at the site.
"Down the road, if everything works well … we have future phases that would include actually doing our own manufacturing or processing of possible lumber or our own products inside the building," he told the OCIDA members during a June 9 webcast of a board meeting.
Steve Hubert, one of the principals of Buchanan Empire, told the IDA that one plus for the Baldwinsville location is that it is next door to a facility of Tessy Plastics Corp., "which we expect to do some business with."
After Syroco shut down, its large manufacturing campus was split in two, with Tessy moving into part of it and now EPS buying the remaining section, Murphy said.