Plastics Recycling Update

Evergreen and Peninsula upgrade PET recycling plants

Evergreen's Riverside, Calif. location seen from above.

Nationwide PET reclaimer Evergreen has installed advanced sorting equipment at its Riverside, Calif. facility over the past year. | Courtesy of Google Maps

Two reclaimers have recently made or are planning multi-million-dollar upgrades at their California PET recycling facilities. The following are details on the projects by Evergreen and Peninsula Plastics Recycling. 

Evergreen improves sorting at California plant

Evergreen is in the midst of a significant upgrade to its Riverside, Calif. recycling plant, the latest in a series of expansion projects for the nationwide PET reclaimer. 

Evergreen is part of strapping product manufacturer Greenbridge, which is owned by private equity firm The Sterling Group. Evergreen bought the Riverside plant at auction in 2021, after the former owner, CarbonLite, filed for bankruptcy. Also last year, Evergreen kicked off a project to install major upgrades at its Clyde, Ohio recycling plant, and purchased PET recycling plants in Albany, N.Y. and Amherst, Nova Scotia, giving it a coast-to-coast footprint.  

In an interview with Plastics Recycling Update, Greg Johnson, Evergreen’s chief operating officer, noted that the Riverside plant is designed to run Grade A PET bales, or those collected through the state’s bottle bill, the California Redemption Value (CRV) program.

The equipment upgrades are needed to better process Grade A bales, but Evergreen may also occasionally use the system to recycle curbside PET, or Grade B, bales to produce RPET for customers outside the food and drink market, he said. 

“We’re definitely doing a significant upgrade to enhance the capabilities of the front end, but it was needed even for A Grade,” Johnson explained. “It’s not a wholesale switch. We’re not going to stop buying CRV and go to MRF-generated bales, that’s for sure.” 

The Riverside improvements kicked off with the installation of six sorting robots over a year ago, continued with the installation of optical sorters in February 2022, and finished with the addition of other separation and processing equipment, including a de-labeler, in September 2022, he said, giving the Riverside plant sorting capabilities similar to those in Clyde. 

Johnson also noted that all of the company’s U.S. facilities use robots supplied by AMP Robotics, with six each in Riverside and Clyde and three in Albany. 

He said he didn’t immediately have the equipment investment figures available.

When asked about the impact of recent steep drops in the value of recycled PET on the company, Johnson said Evergreen is in the food-grade RPET market for the long haul. 

“It’s definitely been a volatile market here recently, but we’ll work through that and keep focusing on the long term,” he said. 

Peninsula Plastics Recycling upgrades

The state of California will provide a $5 million loan to help Peninsula Plastics Recycling boost the capacity of its PET recycling plant by up to 50%.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) on Oct. 7 approved the Recycling Market Development Zone loan for Peninsula. 

A member of the Merlin group of plastics recycling companies, Peninsula Plastics Recycling was founded in 2008. The company recycles post-consumer PET bottles into RPET pellets for use in food and drink packaging. 

The $5 million loan will be used to install additional equipment at the facility in Turlock, Calif., which is near Modesto in the Central Valley. 

“The additional equipment will remove a greater number of contaminants from the PET bales to improve the quality of the PET pellets that can be recycled into beverage bottles,” according to CalRecycle’s loan approval document. 

The document notes the project will increase recycling capacity from about 20,000 tons per year to 30,000 tons, and it will create 14 new jobs. 

This isn’t the first time the reclaimer has received funding assistance from the California government. In January 2019, Peninsula received $4 million in loans from the state, with the money being a mix of Recycling Market Development Zone program funding and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Revolving Loan program funds. The money went to installing recycling equipment and a solar power system.

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