Plastics Recycling Update

Demand for recycled PS spurs Dart partnership

Foam products maker Dart Container and Plastics Recycling, Inc. are investing $4 million to $6 million to build a facility in Indiana that will process both foam and rigid polystyrene, and the companies say the move comes in response to the resin’s growing market opportunities.

“There’s a big kick on our side of the business of people wanting post-consumer in the products they make,” said Brandon Shaw, marketing manager for Indiana-based Plastics Recycling, Inc. (PRI). “This would supply us with more post-consumer to satisfy the demand out there.”

The project will expand the headquarters of Plastics Recycling, Inc. (PRI) in Indianapolis, increasing the firm’s overall recycling capacity from 60 million pounds annually to 85 million pounds annually. PRI also operates a processing facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, but Shaw said roughly 70 percent of its processing happens at the Indianapolis site.

The executive called the move to partner with Dart a “perfect marriage” because the foam producer has experience washing reclaimed PS while PRI has developed systems for recycling and compounding. The two firms have worked together on different polystyrene projects since around 1990, Shaw added.

Some of the material processed at the facility will move to PRI’s sister firm, Recycled Technologies, Inc., which manufactures plastic cores for cash register receipt cores — that business consumes substantial tonnages of recycled PS.

Shaw said PRI is seeing plenty of demand from outside firms as well. One particularly enticing market is insulation board manufacturers, many of which are seeking out polystyrene made with recycled content that can help them fulfill the needs of clients aiming for LEED certification.

Dart Container, meanwhile, has been pushing the recyclability of polystyrene in recent months as it works to convince municipalities nationwide to bring the material into recycling streams instead of enacting bans restricting the use of foam in foodservice settings. Last year, the company helped lobby legislators in New York City who were considering a ban.

The Big Apple ultimately decided to wait a year and test out the practicality of bringing foam products into the municipal recycling system. Dart’s Michael Westerfield said such tests have not yet begun but that the expanded operation at PRI, which is expected to be operational in early 2015, will be the destination for recovered PS from New York City if the material does in fact enter the stream there.

“New York gets first crack,” said Westerfield. “If they determine they can collect polystyrene, then this facility is for them. If not, we’ll start working with other cities.”

The Dart and PRI representatives say finding suppliers of recovered material in other locales will not be problematic, especially in the wake of China’s Operation Green Fence. The customs crackdown has caused materials recovery facility operators to reconsider their strategies for PS and other plastics that previously went into mixed bales.

“The technology is there in MRFs now to get more value out of the mixed streams they bring in,” Shaw said. “I think there will be more people willing to work with us to capture that volume.”

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