Though polypropylene plastic (PP) is widely used in many applications including food and general use containers, toys, automotive parts, building and construction, and agriculture, the material can be challenging to recycle. When the rigid plastic gets processed the final material is opaque and dark in color. Often the colors and odors in the material are hard to get out even with recycling. Most of the material ends up in landfills.
Recycling company PureCycle Technologies is hoping to divert some of that material from landfills and give it a useful life through its new plastic recycling prep facility in Central Florida. Announced on Oct. 6, the facility will sort and process PP and is expected to increase the amount of plastic recycled in that area of the state.
PureCycle uses a technology developed and licensed by Procter & Gamble that removes contaminants, colors, and odors during the recycling process, transforming the material into ultra-pure recycled polypropylene.
According to Michael Otworth, CEO of PureCycle, there’s high demand in the market for recycled polypropylene plastic that’s nearly interchangeable with virgin resin without compromising on appearance, performance, or odor. “We found we could [meet that demand] through this process, and we think it’ll address a unique market that’s looking for no compromise with recycled resin,” he says.
PureCycle plans to create recycling prep communities across the U.S. to better identify and secure recycled PP for feedstock to create the company’s recycled PP resin. The plastic prep facility in Florida is part of PureCycle’s community-focused plan to increase the amount of plastic that’s recycled through curbside and help stop the material from ending up in waterways, landfills, and the environment.
“People come to Florida to enjoy the environment, the ocean, and all the natural resources,” Otworth says. “With that in mind, we want to explore all the ways we can get access to feedstock that would otherwise potentially harm the environment.” In particular, the company is looking into how it can collect and use discarded ocean nets, mooring lines from cruise ships, and any recyclables that end up in the waste streams from cruise ships. “I get texts from our team with pictures of mooring ropes piled high on the docks, or turn on the TV and see netting that’s harmed local wildlife,” Otworth recalls. “Our team wants to dig in and find out how we can aggregate some of these materials and make sure people know they can send it to us and we’ll pay for it and purify it so it doesn’t end up in the environment.”
Located in Winter Garden, the recycling prep facility will sort and grind PP. Then the material will be transformed into PureCycle’s plastic resin at its purification site under construction in Ironton, Ohio, and the next facility in Augusta, GA, with construction set to begin in early 2022. The prep facility will also process other plastics that can be sold to third-party processors. The company is currently into the next steps of the prep facility—getting the necessary equipment ordered and delivered to the site and adding new staff.
Otworth notes that the location of the facility made sense for several reasons including the proximity to the company’s headquarters in Orlando and the area’s large population. “We wanted to make it a priority to understand the waste stream infrastructure in Florida. This prep facility is our first step in developing that focus and we have a desire to do good right here where our headquarters are,” he says. “I think our team members appreciate being involved in something that’s good for the environment and diverting plastic that would otherwise go to a landfill is a good feeling.”
Photos courtesy of PureCycle. Featured image caption: Interior of PureCycle’s Winter Garden Facility. Body image caption: Exterior of PureCycle’s Winter Garden Facility.