A proposed SRI CV Plastics Inc. plant continues to generate controversy despite concessions the company offered at a Sept. 14 meeting of the Town of Lockport (N.Y.) Industrial Development Agency's directors.
Terry Burton, a lawyer representing Perundurai, India-based SRI, explained revisions the company has made to its request for funding, in the hopes of appeasing environmentalists and some residents who oppose the plant.
Originally, the company planned to produce disposable food packaging and eventually add PVC pipe manufacturing in a second phase of development. SRI has requested $600,000 in state and local funding to build the plant.
Burton emphasized SRI has dropped its intention to produce PVC pipe at the proposed facility. That plan had drawn the ire of dozens of environmental groups because of the risks associated with PVC ingredient vinyl chloride.
Under the new proposal, Burton said, the plant would produce only disposable food containers, packaging and utensils using polyethylene, polypropylene and “suitable” shredded waste plastics. He assured board members that resin pellets would be handled securely and would not pose an environmental threat. He added that any gas emissions would be contained within the plant’s closed-loop system.
In a Sept. 15 email to Plastics News, Burton said the IDA has conducted a thorough review of SRI’s plans.
“At yesterday’s meeting, it was apparent that the Lockport IDA’s board of directors has invested the time needed to become familiar with the intended operation of the SRI CV Plastics manufacturing facility and that the board is willing to give fair consideration to the commitments made by SRI CV Plastics to conduct safe operations in an environmentally responsible manner,” Burton said.
Environmentalists still have big problems with the company’s plans to make disposable plastic products. In a Sept. 13 letter to the IDA board, 43 environmental groups urged Lockport not to approve funding for the injection molding facility.
“Public dollars should not be used to subsidize a private company that will profit from making single-use food packaging and utensils,” the letter said.
“The state banned polystyrene takeout containers in 2022, yet this company intends to produce polystyrene food packaging in New York? Producing more of these single-use items is completely contrary to the direction our state is moving in.”
The groups behind the letter include Beyond Plastics, Natural Resources Defense Council, Last Plastic Straw, Veterans for Climate Justice and dozens more.
The groups also question the project’s integrity because SRI initially submitted fabricated “scientific” information. Burton explained at the meeting how that happened and said there was no intention to mislead the agency.
The information, generated through artificial intelligence, summarized a nonexistent University of California study that said PVC manufacturing is safe.
“The information that was assembled for Lockport was assembled in India by people whose first language was not English,” he said.
Those people mistakenly thought they were using ChatGPT, an AI text chatbot, as a translation tool. Instead, they inserted queries that sent ChatGPT looking for answers, not realizing that “when it can’t find information, it makes it up.”
Burton said SRI President Varunkumar Velumani was very embarrassed about the misunderstanding “and asks that it be disregarded.”
The company said it hopes to complete the 13,870-square-foot plant in 2024, creating 20 full-time and five part-time jobs within two years of launching operations. The project is expected to cost $3.3 million.
Velumani has said he will take the project elsewhere if he does not receive funding.
The board took no action on SRI’s request. Thomas Sy, IDA administrative director, said by email Sept. 15 the proposal will be addressed again at the Oct. 12 board meeting.
Sy did not want to speculate on whether the application will be approved. However, if it is, IDA will begin the process of selling the company two acres of land in the IDA Industrial Park for the facility, and the company will take its proposal before the Lockport Planning Board.
The parent company of SRI is VEVA Holdings Pte. Inc., which is incorporated in Singapore. VEVA is owned by Velumani and members of his family, who also have injection molding operations in Perundurai, India.