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The next boom? Reynolds Metals Co. to invest $50 million in Clark County.

In the 1960s, Reynolds Metals Co. of Richmond, Va., pioneered aluminum recycling.

Reynolds recently became a major recycler of plastics through a subsidiary, Presto Products Co. The company, purchased by Reynolds in 1988, produces plastic bags, food wrap and stretch film.

Now, Reynolds will continue its recycling efforts at its former Patterson Plant in Gum Springs, which is between Arkadelphia and Gurdon. The facility will treat spent potliner, a carbon-based material produced during the aluminum manufacturing process.

Spent potliner contains trace levels of hazardous chemicals, including cyanide and instable fluoride.

In the past, the material was stored at plant sites.

A thermal treatment process will convert spent potliner into a non-hazardous ash residue.

The process was tested for two years at Reynolds' Hurricane Creek Plant at Bauxite and recently was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reynolds officials claim the process is the only one of its kind in the United States.

"We think this could be the next big boom in the aluminum industry," says Ronnie Thomas, a Reynolds public relations official.

The Obvious Choice

Thomas says the pilot program took place at the Bauxite plant because two kilns needed for the process were there. The 250-foot kilns will be transported to Gum Springs.

The reduction plant at Gum Springs was closed in the mid-1980s.

The site is being refurbished at an expected cost of $50 million. The 75 jobs that will be created, many of which will be highly technical positions, provide another boost for an area of the state that was hit hard when Reynolds began pulling out of Arkansas in the 1980s.

Within a mile of the Patterson Plant, new facilities are being built or already being operated by Rohr Inc., the Carrier Corp. and Petit Jean Poultry Inc.

"Not only is the infrastructure needed for this process already in place at |Gum Springs~, but the raw materials needed for the treatment are located nearby," Thomas says.

The high-temperature process will blend limestone and a brown sand with the potliner. The residue will be placed in an on-site landfill.

Harry Helton, Reynolds' executive vice president for metals and raw materials, says the company eventually hopes to recycle the residue into products such as cinder blocks and roofing tiles.

"We are working to develop a commercial application for the residue ... thus completing the recycling loop," Helton says.

Aluminum and plastic recycling efforts have proved profitable for Reynolds. Company officials believe the treatment of spent potliner will be no exception.

The Gum Springs facility will have an annual capacity of 120,000 tons. Because Reynolds' primary aluminum production facilities only produce about 35,000 tons of potliner per year, the company hopes to contract with other North American smelters.

Reynolds has production facilities in Arkansas, Oregon, Washington, New York and Canada.

"We will need |potliner from other companies~ to keep the plant working," Thomas says.
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Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 16, 1992
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