Textile recycler Sawgrass Sustainable LLC is acquiring automotive recycler Carpenter Material Group in a move that both adds a location and expands capabilities.
Carpenter brings about 25 employees and 175,000 square feet of additional space in Scottsboro, Ala. This site joins existing Sawgrass locations in Lafayette and Dalton, Ga., said Jon Buchan, managing partner at Sawgrass.
While Sawgrass historically has focused on textile recycling, Carpenter's Alabama location has handled automotive plastics. Combining experience in both arenas allows the company to look for additional growth, Buchan said. Carpenter also brings processing equipment new to Sawgrass.
"We've always been very active in textiles, primarily in polyester, polypropylene and also nylon. Big, big nylon house," Buchan said. "We do work with some end uses, but we really service the compounders, giving the compounders a reliable source of resins.
"We just needed more capacity. There are certain abilities that the Carpenter Material Group had that we did not have like wash lines. They also have some float sink lines. And there's certain grades of material that mainly come from automotive, for example, a talc-filled polypropylene. We needed those materials. We needed the people. We needed the extra capacity. Those were the primary reasons," Buchan said.
Sawgrass acquired the Alabama facility from Carpenter Metal Solutions of Alliance, Ohio, owned by Gregg Carpenter Sr.
Gregg Carpenter Jr. has been running the plastics recycling business for the family-owned company and partnered with Sawgrass to purchase those Alabama assets when they were put up for sale. He is now a minority equity partner in Sawgrass along with majority owner Buchan.
Sawgrass and Carpenter had cooperated over the years on plastic recycling projects so the two sides were familiar with each other before the sale, Buchan explained.
The combined company now employs about 70 workers at the three locations, including 25 coming from the Carpenter portion of the business, Buchan said.
Combining experience in textile recycling and automotive plastics recycling sets Sawgrass up for future competition that Buchan believes will only get more intense.
"We feel that we have to get more creative in the recycling world because we've got world-scale chemical recycling plants coming online competing for the best available materials," he explained. "For the future, we view the ability to provide our customers with consistent quality resin is going to be more and more of a difficult feat."
Chemical recyclers, Buchan said, have commonly said they want to target the more difficult-to-recycle plastics as a way to create value, but Buchan said he believes they are more and more targeting mainstream recycled resin for their feedstock in direct competition to mechanical recyclers.
Along with seeing increased competition for what Buchan calls "the easy feedstocks," more and more plastic processors are installing their own equipment to recycle resin on-site and divert it directly back into the manufacturing process, Buchan said.
"We're seeing a compressed outlook on the availability of feedstocks. So it requires us to get more clever, more creative and have more processes," he said. "Between the two divisions, we can handle anything. And that's what we're poised for for the future.
"It's probably the main reason we did it, to be able to position ourselves for the future where the world we see coming, it will be more and more difficult to get high-quality recyclables. We just feel that way," Buchan said.