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One man's treasure: Rogers-based AERT is converting plastic bags into dollar bills.

EVER WONDER WHAT happens to those plastic grocery sacks you take to the recycling bins every few weeks?

Many of them end up in Rogers, home of Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc.

And that's where the cleanup begins.

Using technology developed under an agreement with Dow Plastics, AERT is converting these dirty, contaminated polyethylene bags into clean plastic resin pellets that can later be recycled into other bags and stretch film.

"Basically, our system was modeled after food processing technology," says Doug Brooks, executive vice president of AERT. The system removes contaminants by separating materials of different densities in water.

In the agreement, AERT developed the product essentially in exchange for marketing assistance from Dow, says Scott Noesen, project manager for environmental performance at Dow. The product is shipped to Dow from AERT, then is distributed to customers.

"The consumers are very environmentally conscious and they want the materials to be recycled," he says. Businesses are listening to those voices, he adds, but environmental matters have been on the back burner for many companies since the recession began.

Better economic times probably will bring another surge in business, Brooks says.

And AERT will be ready.

The company's current labor force of 12 employees will soon be doubled and new equipment will be added to handle the anticipated demand.

"The intent of this initial development agreement was to develop a cost-effective polyethylene film recycling technology," says Tom Francis, business development director for resource recovery and conservation at Dow Plastics, a business group of The Dow Chemical Co.

"AERT's film line has demonstrated it can produce a high-quality resin that can be effectively incorporated in products such as grocery bags, trash can liners and stretch film, and various injection molding applications."

Looking Long-Term

Dow Plastics is working with many of its customers to evaluate the performance and value of AERT's recycled polyethylene product and explore commercial opportunities.

"Based on our progress to date, we believe this film recycling technology can be scaled up to further improve quality and increase operating rate, thus improving economics," Brooks says.

AERT entered the agreement with Dow in October 1991, and is currently negotiating for a long term arrangement.

The company was founded in December 1988 and went public in November 1989.

"Gov. Clinton was very instrumental in helping us receive financing," says Brooks.

In September 1991, AERT obtained a $400,000 machinery and equipment loan from the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission as part of the Community Development Block Grant funds.

AERT also reclaims and recycles polyethylene with wood fibers into moisture-resistant composite building materials. At its operations in Junction, Texas, the company produces materials for moisture seals, and is working to develop new applications for the product.
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Title Annotation:Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc.
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 23, 1992
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