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Recycling update: it's in the bag!

Recyled plastic film, whether post-consumer grocery bags or commercial waste like greenhouse covers, traditionally aims at low-value applications like plastic lumber or exports to Latin America and the Far East for cleaning and pelletizing. Some of that material returns to the U.S. for bag fabrication in states like California, where recycling is mandated.

Of course, there have been exceptions, such as Webster Industries, Peabody, Mass., which has been recycling industrial film into trash bags for years (see PT, May '90, p. 120). Now however, a bunch of new plants plan to convert generally low-value post-consumer-reclaim (PCR) film into higher value film and bags.

This recycling requires a big stretch in terms of quality control, additives and process technology because thin-film grades must be top quality. "We don't want to have to make thin films thicker just to accommodate recycling," says Tom Tomaszek, president of North American Plastics Recycling Corp. in Fort Edward, N.Y., a new film recycler.

Blowing film with PCR is tricky, since the least impurity makes a hole or black speck. Recycling post-consumer film is also tricky because ground film has so much lower bulk density than bottle flake and corresponding lower throughputs. A standard 2000-lb/hr bottle recycling line might run only a half or two-thirds as much film fluff, with under-1-mil films the hardest to process.

Collection intrastructure for post-consumer films exists today as a by-product of curbside collection which generate piles of empty bags. Supermarkets and dry cleaners also have instore collection bins. In addition to film recycling news, new bottle recycling ventures that also target high-end markets including bags, plan to showcase new "clean-in/clean-out" systems that decontaminate bottles before grinding.

FROM BAGS TO RICHES ...

Up to now, only one domestic company has been known to grind, wash and process mixed PCR films back into T-shirt bags on a commercial scale. That's one-year-old Rhino-X Industries, Victoria, Texas, in which a controlling interest was bought in June by Boston-based Carlisle Plastics Inc. Some bag collection efforts by bag makers also recycle material into bags, but the conversion is labor-intensive and small. Rhino-X uses grinding and washing equipment from Sorema in Itally with 20 million lb/yr capacity and earlier announced plans to boost film recycling to about 60 million lb/yr.

Now three new film recycling plants are starting, two this month: Petoskey Plastics Inc. in Petoskey, Mich., and North American Plastics Recycling Corp. (see PT, Jan. '91, p. 99). A third, South Eastern Recycling Inc., Tuscaloosa, Ala., starts up by year-end.

Petoskey has the first U.S.-dedicated thin-film recycling line from Fabbrica Bondenese Macchine Srl in Italy, says FBM's U.S. agent, Converting Systems International, Naples, Fla. (In Canada: F B M / Future America, Brampton, Ontario, a joint venture with Future Design Inc. of Brampton.) The $3-million project includes a washing system and is backed up with continuous melt filtration in the extruder to remove grass, sawdust, paper, etc. Incompatible resins like PET and PS are also said to be removable in the melt. (CIRCLE 47) Petoskey, a Q-1 supplier to Ford Motor Co., reportedly will offer full statistical process control of its PCR-containing film resins.

North American Plastics' operation includes the first film-washing unit in the U.S. from Weiss GmbH of Dillenberg, Germany. Weiss' system cleans by friction, without cleaning agents, using a gravity-fed wash vessel with two low-torque, high-rpm chopping rotors. A screen mounted drum lets only certain size flakes pass. North American says initial markets for repelletized material are agricultural film, garbage and merchandise bags. (CIRCLE 49)

South Eastern Recycling expects to start up the first Refrakt film recycling line in the U.S. by year-end. Refrakt is a German technology development combining Herbold granulators with a new high-speed, high-agitation washing unit from B & B (Braun and Buzga) that operates like a turbine mill. Refrakt also uses unconventional two-stage drying, mechanical and thermal, a series of tubes spiraling within a heated chamber. (CIRCLE 50)

AND BOTTLES TO BAGS . . .

Envirothene Inc., Chino, Calif., has been running the first turnkey recycling system from John Brown Inc., Plastic Recycling Systems, Providence, R.I., for over six months now (see PT, Feb. '91, p. 96), and in "August achieved stated output levels. We did well," says Envirothene president Jason Stanton.

About 20% of Envirothene's HDPE bottle recycle is earmarked for sister company Plasco Press in Azusa, Calif., for a trademarked bag product called "Bottlesack." Envirothene also licenses other bag companies to use its proprietary film process based on a blend of 30% PCR milk-jug HDPE with virgin HMW-HDPE. Envirothene's HDPE recycle is graded for whiteness, impurities and melt index with only the highest grade used for film manufacture. Intermediate-quality material can be coextruded as the center layer of a three-layer bottle. The lowest grade is reserved for injection molding wastebaskets and other housewares--although some injection molding customers reportedly want highest film-quality grades. (CIRCLE 51)

High-quality film resin containing PCR carries a premium of 6-7 [cents]/lb over virgin HDPE. "We try not to sell to the drainage pipe market because it's a much lower price base," Stanton says.

Envirothene has successfully prototyped a proprietary post-consumer film-waste reclaiming line, which it intends to build next year. The prototype achieved 2000 lb/hr throughput with mixed post-consumer film, Stanton says. (CIRCLE 52)

THINKING BIG

The scale of the 200-million-lb/yr joint venture announced by Sonoco Products Co., Hartsville, S.C., and Atlanta-based Mindis Recycling Inc. is daunting (PT, Aug. '91, p. 104). But Mindis industrial engineer Rick Jacobs says the first two HDPE bottle recycling lines "could be up and running Jan. 1." A few months later, he expects to bring on the remaining two PET bottle lines and one film reclaiming line. Mindis' parent firm, Attwoods PLC of the U.K., has 30 trash collection sites in the Southeast (including Miami, Fla.) and a 400,000-household MRF in Atlanta next to the planned recycling plant in an 85-acre former General Motors site. Mindis says it has stockpiled millions of pounds of post-consumer film and bottles.

The first two dedicated HDPE lines are ordered and will consist of bale breakers, conveyors with visual inspection, and a series of two 32 x 50 in. grinders from Cumberland Engineering Div. of John Brown in Cumberland, R.I.--with 1-in. and 3/8-in. screens. Flake then goes thorugh elutriators from Sterling Blower Co., Forest, Va., to remove fines and debris; then to sink/float tank from M.A. Industries, Peachtree City, Ga., to separate HDPE from PET flake, on to a proprietary scrubbing unit, described as "standard mining industry technology," then through dryers from Walton/Stout Inc., Lithonia, Ga., and past metal separators from Carpco Inc., Jacksonville, Fla. Mindis' Jacobs says each line will have a throughput of 8000 lb/hr except the film line, rated at 2500-3000 lb/hr. (CIRCLE 53)

Line Envirothene/Plasco, Sonoco/Mindis is vertically integrated to supply PCR for higher-value packaging products. Roughly 50% of Sonoco/Mindis' PCR output is expected to be absorbed eventually by Sonoco grocery sacks.

'ZERO CONTAMINATION'

Two interesting ventures also starting up this month take a different route to upgrading recycled material from the influential Rutgers University prototype. Whereas Rutgers' Center for Plastics Recycling Research in New Brunswick, N.J., grinds separated plastics before proceeding to decontamination, these new automated lines remove bottle contaminants before grinding.

Enviroplast, a start-up recycler in Richmond, Va., will be showcase for Italian recycling machinery from Govoni Spa that's so automated it's said to need only one operator. "We intend to demonstrate close to 'zero-contamination' processing," says Dr. Willy Broich, chairman of Enviroplast, a joint venture of Broich and Govoni's U.S. partner, International Food Machinery, Richmond. The Govoni line automatically identifies and separates PVC with a patented electromagnetic beam, then automatically sorts colors in a cascade in front of an optical sensor, separating colored from natural HDPE and pigmented from clear PET. Mixed-color HDPE and PVC will be baled and sold. (CIRCLE 54)

The second super-clean line is for PET bottles, starting this month at Embrace Systems Technologies Inc., Angola, N.Y. Embrace, which will use the clean flake for its proprietary Puffibre insulation, has the first ARC 7200 system from Automated Recycling Corp., div. of Aidlin Automation Corp. of Sarasota, Fla. (PT, Dec. '89, p. 89). ARC 7200 transfers post-consumer PET bottles by their injection molded neck rings, conveying them through the decontamination process with air jets, as in basecup application. PVC and HDPE bottles are eliminated from the PCR stream because they can't be supported by their necks. Aluminum caps are slit diagonally and swept off bottle tops with brushes. Bottles are then filled with hot water to relax bottle orientation, causing them to shrink, releasing basecups and paper labels, which are washed off with pressurized hot water. This hot-water bath (filtered and reused) is the only cleaning agent, says ARC engineer Steve Alley. (CIRCLE 55)

NEW COLOR SEPARATION

EnviroPlastics Corp., a four-partner bottle recycling start-up venture in Auburn, Mass., with seed money from Occidental Chemical Corp. in Houston, expects to use a proprietary color-separation system developed by one of its partners. Partner Franco Previd has patents on an optical scanning process to sort whole bottles, says operations v.p. Bruce Fortin. The group also has proprietary wastewater technology, John Brown Inc. will supply a system that includes two parallel washing units. These will allow the line to switch back and forth between types of HDPE. (CIRCLE 58)
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Title Annotation:recycling plastics
Author:Schut, Jan H.
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Words:1570
Previous Article:Hourly rates dipped again last quarter.
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