The $25 million project will help Unifi move upstream to control more of the PET used in its Repreve brand of recycled fiber, which is incorporated in clothing, vehicle upholstery and other applications. The project is occurring at the company’s Reidsville, N.C. facility.
“This state-of-the-art facility will raise the bar for Unifi, allowing us to internalize the majority of our flake requirements as we continue to expand our Repreve filament and polymer chip business,” Mark McNeill, Unifi’s vice president of technology and business development, stated in a press release.
The project is separate from Unifi’s effort to more than double its Yadkinville, N.C. facility. After that project, the facility will be able to process 132 million pounds of recycled PET per year. That facility opened in 2011.
The expanded Reidsville facility will produce about 75 million pounds of recycled PET flake to supply the Yadkinville facility, company leaders told investors during a July 23 conference call.
“Internal control over bottle processing will allow us to produce the quality and efficiencies that we need to operate cost-effectively on a continuous basis,” Roger Berrier, Unifi president and COO, told investors, according to the call transcript.
“We are investing in the latest recycling technology, which will provide many advantages to us compared to the supply chain that we are currently buying from,” he said.
Screen, air and optical sorting
Eugene, Ore.-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) will design, build and install sortation equipment at the Reidsville plant. The BHS system will process 22,000 pounds per hour of PET bales, with the aim of separating clear PET from other materials so it can be turned into flake.
The system will process clear, green and colored PET, mixed PE and PP, mixed metals, aluminum and other mixed plastics, Peter Raschio, BHS marketing manager, told Plastics Recycling Update.
The new system will feature screen, air and optical sorting technologies from BHS and BHS-owned companies Nihot and National Recovery Technologies (NRT).
When bales arrive at the facility, they’ll go through the following process, according to Raschio:
- Break bales
- Remove ferrous metals
- BHS Debris Roll Screen will remove small debris
- Nihot Windshifter will use air density separation to remove labels, film and paper
- Eddy current separator removes aluminum
- Nine NRT optical sorters using near-infrared and color detection technologies to sort plastics. The sorters will remove contaminants and capture any PET that inadvertently made it into the contamination stream
- A second Debris Roll Screen after the washing line will remove any remaining small contaminants
Equipment manufacturing will start this year, with installation scheduled for January or early February. Operations are expected to begin in June.
Meanwhile, AMUT will design, build and assemble a PET washing line in the Reidsville facility. The equipment will use the company’s dry de-labeling system to remove shrink sleeve wraps from post-consumer bottles, according to AMUT.
“This is to give them total vertical integration of the process,” Anthony Georges, company president, stated in a press release.