Placon Corporation completed the construction of its plastics recycling facility in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, US, in May 2011. The 70,000ft² closed-loop facility was built with an investment of $14m. The new plant has established Placon as the first plastics manufacturer to have set-up an in-house recycling process.

Placon announced its plan to construct the facility in May 2010. Work commenced in August 2010 and was undertaken in two phases. The first phase was completed in the third quarter of 2010 and included the installation of an extruder. During phase II, bottle-washing equipment and additional extruders were added to the plant.

The facility is capable of producing consumer packaging products from 100% post-buyer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recyclate.

The main products that will be manufactured at the facility are flake, letter of non-object flake and sheet products. Placon will market these products under the EcoStar brand.

The Fitchburg plant is Placon’s second facility in Wisconsin; it operates another in state-capital Madison. Placon also owns another manufacturing plant in Suzhou, China. The company employs over 400 employees globally.

Ecostar’s recycling process

“Placon is the first plastics manufacturer to set up an in-house recycling process.”

The Fitchburg facility will be able to treat 36 million pounds of both post-consumer bottles and post-consumer thermoform packaging. These materials are ground, washed and processed into sheet and flake products, which will be supplied to the food and consumer products market.

The plant combines both bottle cleaning and sheet production activities in one location. PET is washed and recycled in one half of the facility, and sheet extrusion is performed in the other.

This layout helps to improve operational efficiency by placing material supply chain closer to sheet production. It also helps in reducing the carbon footprint of the facility.

Financing the Ecostar project

The Department of Commerce provided $250,000 in tax credits for building and equipping the plant. The tax credits were awarded as part of the Economic Development Tax Credit Programme, which exists to generate employment, provide assistance to start-ups and promote R&D in the region. The programme also aims to promote environment friendly projects that have a low carbon footprint.

The financial assistance provided to Placon helped to create 44 new jobs and retain 326 jobs in the region.

Benefits

Construction of the new plant is part of Placon’s efforts to develop sustainable packaging products and reduce solid waste. The Fitchburg plant will help in preventing post-consumer plastic bottles from going into landfill. Placon has already prevented over a billion bottles from being sent to landfill in the past seven years.

The plant will also help in reducing energy consumption. It is estimated that recycling one pound of PET can save nearly 12,000BTUs of energy. Further, the plant will conserve resources by recycling used plastic back into new plastic and closing the loop.

“The opening of the Ecostar plant means that Placon no longer needs to procure recycled plastic materials from Ohio.”

With the construction of the new facility, Placon is planning to establish a standalone production site under the EcoStar brand. The company has been using EcoStar branded sheet and thermoform products internally for the last 20 years. Through the Fitchburg facility, it will sell EcoStar brand products for the first time in the open market.

For the last 15 years, Placon has been incorporating post-consumer recycled materials in its packaging products. To do so, the company has been procuring recycled plastic from Ohio. The opening of the new plant will no longer require Placon to procure recycled plastic materials from Ohio, which will further improve the company’s operational efficiency.

The plant will also serve the changing requirements of Placon’s customers for recycled packaging materials. As production requirements change, customers have been facing challenges in finding the right mix of recycled thermoforms and plastic sheet products.

Contractors for the Ecostar facility

Fitchburg-based KSW Construction was chosen as the general contractor for the project.