QRS facility

As a Baltimore-area plastics recovery facility ramps up to full production, a project leader discusses the plastics currently entering and leaving the building.

Jonathan Sloan, president of Canusa Hershman Recycling Co. (CHRC), recently talked with Plastics Recycling Update about the Dundalk, Md.-based plastics recovery facility (PRF), which has been in full swing since October.

The facility, a partnership between CHRC and QRS Recycling, has garnered plenty of industry discussion and landed a $2 million low-interest loan from the Closed Loop Fund. CHRC takes the lead in sourcing materials for the $10.5 million facility and QRS oversees day-to-day operations.

The 128,000-square-foot building receives bales with materials frequently missed or neglected by materials recovery facilities (MRF).

“That material still has value, but it just needs to be liberated from a mixed bale. That’s why this facility exists,” Sloan said. “It’s a long-term, viable market for the materials that are not recovered either through the inefficiencies of the system or the MRF isn’t adequately structured to recover certain materials. We are generating a true post-consumer product.”

The PRF is currently receiving Nos. 1-7 bales as well as Nos. 3-7 bales and is recovering multicolored PET, HDPE, PP, black PP and black PE, in addition to ferrous and nonferrous metals, Sloan said. They’re also able to recover LDPE containers but not film.

Sloan added the facility is well-positioned to recover additional resins in the future, but, to do so, a consistent and viable market for those materials needs to emerge.

“The organization has worked diligently and invested heavily on processing non-conventional material, things like amber and opaque PET, PVC, PS, and, frankly, the industry continues to be challenged by the recoverability and the marketability of those items,” Sloan said.

The PRF sorts, washes and produces flake from post-consumer material sourced from MRFs within a roughly 500-mile radius. Sloan said he’s not aware of any bales arriving from mixed-waste processing facilities but would consider them in the future based on the composition and characteristics of those loads. Mixed-waste facilities, a controversial approach to raising diversion figures in some areas, take in unsorted solid waste and attempt to separate recyclables from trash.

The Baltimore PRF produces flake that’s shipped to a variety of industrial and consumer applications (none for food-contact items), mostly at domestic manufacturers. The flake can be pelletized or, in some cases, molded directly into new products.

Asked about worries of low commodity prices, Sloan said: “The commodity prices are always a concern, but we have a very efficient system and the capability of the system to maximize the value through a washed flake is a key component of our strategy. We have to be mindful of all of that and market conditions, but we also have to be mindful of the price that we pay for material. Not everybody’s material is created equal.”

The PRF uses mechanical and optical sortation as well as manual quality checks. It is capable of accepting 4,500 tons of material a month and operates three shifts, five days a week, Sloan said. He said the operators don’t disclose the facility’s residue rates.

The facility is currently running two shifts but will add a third in January.