Integrated PET recycler and packaging company rPlanet Earth LLC is establishing its second thermoform recycling facility.
"We have leased 48,000 square feet here in Vernon, Calif., and are conditioning the building already," Octavio Victal, rPlanet Earth's director of sustainability, told Plastics News by email March 12.
He said the Vernon-based company is raising $7 million for the project. "We are almost fully funded between some low-interest loans and [an] angel investor."
Most of the machinery, he added, will be imported from Germany. "With this virus shutdown, we might see a slight delay. We are expecting to have equipment here by October."
The facility, he said, will produce 4 million pounds per month of post-consumer thermoformed flake.
According to Victal, the angel investor mentioned has a 20 percent stake in Green Impact Plastics SA de CV, where Victal is president and CEO in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Green Impact claims it was the first PET reclaimer recycling post-consumer thermoform PET packaging in the Americas.
Victal intends to sell Green Impact to the rPlanet Earth group. He has been working on a system to process post-consumer PET thermoforms for the past three years.
rPlanet Earth opened its first PET thermoform recycling facility in Vernon last year. The plant is running at full capacity, reprocessing 3 million pounds a month, Victal said.
"We [rPlanet Earth] have been sending post-consumer bales from curbside programs in California to the plant in Ciudad Juárez and returning the flake to rPlanet Earth for further processing. In California, we solid-state the flake, extrude and thermoform containers with high content of PCR [post-consumer resin] from thermoforms."
Interest in the concept is on the rise, Victal said, "but we are now facing an even bigger challenge than actually building the technology."
Thermoforms "are not widely accepted in curbside programs," he explained, "so in many cases they end up directly in landfills. The consumer is confused as to where to throw them. There is no ISRI [Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries], APR ]Association of Plastic Recyclers] bale spec for the material.
"Because it has no CRV container value [California Refund Value], states that have a bottle bill have little to no interest in making them a bale. SPC [Sustainable Packaging Coalition] just downgraded the recyclability of this packaging.
"We are putting together a group of stakeholders to get some of the above solved but we also want to get the industry behind it. With the second facility I'm building in California we are going to be able to recycle a lot of thermoforms and pull from various locations in the U.S. We would love to see more people engaged in what we are doing."