A bottled water company in Hawaii is installing equipment so it can create a closed loop for recycling PET containers locally.
Waiākea Bottling Inc., a bottled water supplier in Hilo, is installing a new bottle-to-bottle recycling system from STF Group of Germany and Zimmer America Recycling Solutions.
"We ultimately decided on STF because of their modular system design and their ability to complement our operation with a zero liquid discharge system, which is the first of its kind to be implemented in Hawaii and the U.S.," said Waiākea CEO Ryan Emmons.
"The key differentiator between mainstream markets and island markets where we are is scale, and STF was able to accommodate by providing a turnkey solution that fit our needs," he added.
The new wash line will have an initial capacity of 1.5 metric tons of flake per hour. Its modular design means it can boost output to 2.5 metric tons per hour in the future. The equipment will be installed at Waiākea's affiliated recycling operation, Malama One Recycling LLC.
Waiākea produces bottles made from 100 percent recycled PET for water sourced from the aquafir of the Mauna Loa volcano. The company plans on using the line from STF to allow for more flexibility on what it can process. The company wants to close the loop and recycle used PET beverage bottles into new containers.
"Rather than continuing the cycle of landfill waste, Malama One Recycling will be able to divert [high density polyethylene and polypropylene], along with corrugate and glass in its future phases — valuable materials for use here in Hawaii in its future phases, and in a zero-waste facility," Emmons said.
The wash line will include a wet grinder, air stream separation and post-washers. The new equipment being installed includes a new sorting line with material feeding and conveying systems.
Also, the zero liquid discharge system offers complete waste water recycling.
Hawaiian recycling infrastructure is mostly made up of landfills, incinerators, self-haul transfer stations and deposit centers. The state must import 90 percent of its resources, so having the recycling company on the island supports the state's ability to be resource independent.
Waiākea also sells water in aluminum bottles and as a 15-liter bag-in-box bulk system.
The state has a deposit system, the Hi-5 Program, but PET bottles recovered from this system are typically transported to the continental U.S. or Asia for recycling.
"Hawaiian bottling companies such as Waiākea must import their PET, glass or aluminum for bottling," Emmons said. "In an island community, this comes at great social and economic cost that discourages positive growth and innovation in recycling.
"The presence of Malama One Recycling will break that pattern and effectively close the loop on PET and potentially other materials in Hawaii," he said.
Waiākea will begin installing during the second quarter of 2024 and will create about 30 new jobs within the first state of the company. The facility is anticipating a capacity of 52 million pounds per year.