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Major European glass recycler to buy Strategic Materials

Glass bottles piled for recycling.

European glass recycler and mining company Sibelco entered the U.S. glass recycling market by acquiring Strategic Materials for an undisclosed amount. | Tory Chemistry/Shutterstock

Sibelco, a post-consumer glass recycling firm with two dozen processing plants across Europe, announced plans to buy U.S. glass recycling giant Strategic Materials, which recently reorganized through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Belgium-headquartered Sibelco on April 23 announced it signed a “definitive agreement” to acquire Strategic, a major downstream outlet for U.S. MRFs and container deposit programs. Strategic buys mixed post-consumer glass, including container glass, and at its three dozen U.S. processing facilities it cleans and sorts the material to produce cullet for manufacturing. The company processes more than 2 million short tons of glass per year.

In announcing the agreement, Sibelco leaders said the purchase is an opportunity for the company to grow its recycling footprint beyond Europe and to expand its U.S. operations outside of their current concentration in mining. In a statement, Sibelco CEO Hilmar Rode said the purchase positions his company as a “glass recycling leader in both Europe and North America.” He added Sibelco sees “significant opportunity to develop” Strategic’s business.

Financial details were not disclosed in the announcement, but Sibelco is publicly traded and reports past acquisition figures in its annual financial reporting, suggesting the Strategic purchase price will later be made public. The deal is expected to close near the end of the second quarter or beginning of the third quarter of this year.

Sibelco did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.

Strategic has been owned by private equity firm Littlejohn & Co. since 2017. On its website, Littlejohn now lists Strategic Materials as a “prior” investment.

European glass recycling giant

Sibelco is a global mineral mining and processing company operating in 31 countries including the U.S., where it operates several quartz-focused sites in North Carolina. Long a supplier of silica and other types of sand, the company entered the glass recycling industry in Europe in the early 2000s. 

Sibelco’s glass recycling operations include two dozen facilities across Europe and the U.K., together processing more than 3 million metric tons of glass per year. They bring in mixed post-consumer glass and use a beneficiation process to clean and sort the material. The output is primarily cullet to be used in container production.

In its latest annual company report, Sibelco reported strong performance from its glass recycling business in 2023, noting that cullet is “the preferred material to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in the glass manufacturing process.” However, the company reported the strong demand has been accompanied in some European countries by a “scarcity” of post-consumer glass to process. “Sourcing of glass waste remains one of our key focus areas in Europe,” the company wrote.

The Strategic acquisition follows Sibelco’s 2023 acquisitions of an Italian glass recycling company and a glass engineering technology company. In Sibelco’s latest environmental, social, governance report, the company reported a goal to increase the percentage of company revenue in its circular business segment, which includes glass recycling, to at least 20% by 2030. The company’s current revenue from this segment was not disclosed.

On the heels of bankruptcy

The move represents the latest twist in a dramatic few months for Strategic Materials. In early December, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing $432 million in debts and interest. The company described numerous forces driving the bankruptcy, including increased competition in the glass recycling space, declining demand for glass containers and higher interest rates making the cost of debt more expensive.

In January, Strategic received court confirmation of a reorganization plan that repays all secured, priority and unsecured claims in full.  By mid-March, that plan had been “substantially consummated,” according to court documents.

Strategic is awaiting a final decree closing the bankruptcy case, with a dispute over the use of about 100 pallets worth $4,800 presenting the only issue delaying final closure.

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