Today marks the much anticipated opening of CarbonLITE Industries, a bottle-to-bottle PET recycling plant in Riverside, Calif.
The plant will initially produce 75 million pounds of food-grade recycled PET annually and currently employs 100 people. At full capacity, the plant will recycle more than 2 billion plastic bottles from curbside and deposit materials and is the largest PET recycling plant in the US.
According to CEO Neville Browne, "We are bringing 100 jobs back to America, and returning the carbon footprint advantage from PET recycling back to this county. One pound of recycled resin has a carbon footprint that is nine times less than a pound of virgin PET."
"Right now there are 500 million to 600 million pounds of PET passing through California on the way to China," Browne said.
The California Legislature recognized that problem and since 2007, California has encouraged California-based manufacturers of products and packaging to utilize recycled plastic in-state, through the Plastic Market Development Program. The program has recently been renewed and expanded with the passage of AB1149 (Gordon and Wieckowski).
There is greater awareness of the need to recycle and to incorporate recycled content into packaging. This is especially true in California, with the Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act that requires rigid plastic containers offered for sale in this state to meet one of several requirements which include having recycled content or a high recycling rate.
"The need for reprocessed material has continued to increase because the people in plastic packaging are looking at the necessity of having a cradle-to-cradle solution," Browne said. "That is encouraging to us because our whole business model is based on cradle-to-cradle."
California has the added benefit of having a bottle bill. As reported in Plastics News, Browne wishes more states would adopt deposit laws similar to the one in California, "We are fortunate that in California we have a fairly good system of enhancing the value of the deposit. It creates a very good collection infrastructure and a scavenging scheme whether people collect bottles that others discard."
"If everyone would copy California, we´d have plants in six or seven states," Browne said. "We´d be very happy investors in other markets."
But he said that in most other states, beverage companies retain ownership of the deposit funds, making the market less attractive. "I don´t think we are going to have more states like California unless there is a national bottle deposit bill."