RES Poly’s timing good as China market for trash dries up
By Mike Marturello | KPC Media - The Herald Republican
RES Polyflow’s timing could not have been much better.
The Ohio-based company that plans to build a plastic waste-to-fuel production facility in Ashley will be arriving in the market at a time when the United States is grappling with what to do with a glut of plastic waste.
It is expected that RES Poly will start work at its site just east of Ashley soon. Official ground breaking will come next spring, said Michael Dungan, company spokesman.
What RES Poly will be processing in Ashley represents a drop in the bucket when it comes to waste that is not easily recycled.
“We represent a new market for that material. It doesn’t have to leave the state or the county,” Dungan said.
What RES Poly will convert into high quality fuels and waxes is a material that is not easily recycled: the plastic straws, films, polystyrenes and the like. This often is material that had been shipped to China, until that country shut the door in 2017, or landfilled.
Plastic piles up
In June, the Associated Press reported China’s decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries is causing plastic to pile up around the globe, and wealthy countries must find a way to slow the accumulation of one of the most ubiquitous materials on the planet, a group of scientists said.
The scientists sought to quantify the impact of the Chinese import ban on the worldwide trade in plastic waste, and found that other nations might need to find a home for more than 122 million tons of plastic by 2030. The ban went into effect Dec. 31, 2017, and the stockpiling trend figures to worsen, the scientists said.
“This tends to be a game changer with many in the recycling industry,” Dungan said.
Wealthy countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany have long sent their plastic recyclables to China, and the country doesn’t want to be the world’s dumping ground for plastic anymore. The study found China has taken more than 116 million tons of the material since 1992, the equivalent of the weight of more than 300 Empire State Buildings.
Countries took advantage of cheap labor in China to hand sort the trash for use either as recyclables or as fuel to produce electricity. China stopped burning the plastics because of the environmental problems the practice created, though some other developing nations are still using waste plastic for fuel.
Though RES Poly will use only a fraction of the plastic trash generated in the United States, its process will nonetheless make a dent in the problem.
It is the residual waste that is separated from the quality waste that already has a market that RES Poly will be using.
“Our technology embraces that residual stream,” Dungan said. “We now represent a new market for that material so it isn’t unused or not fully utilized.”
How it works
The RES Polyflow process converts a wide mix of co-mingled plastic waste into a consistent hydrocarbon. The Ashley facility is expected to create a new market for the growing stream of complex plastic film, flexible packaging and other low-value, non-recycled plastic waste that typically ends up going to landfills or getting shipped to developing nations.
The RES Polyflow plant will convert 100,000 tons of plastic waste into 16 million gallons per year of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and naphtha blend stocks. The facility also will produce commercial-grade waxes for sale to the industrial wax market.
Dungan said the material the company will use will mostly likely be sourced from Indiana and the Chicago area.
In its operation, once fully up and running, RES Poly will be under strict federal and state environmental regulations in its processes.
On Wednesday RES Poly took a significant step in its journey toward building its plant in Ashley. The company repaid its $1.5 million loan it received from Steuben County that was used to help it secure financing for the project. The company also paid more than $100,000 in interest to the county over the life of the loan, which was about two years.
There is much more work to be done at the Ashley site, including infrastructure, which the town of Ashley is working to build. And RES Poly will start on the preliminary work for building the plant.
“We certainly will begin work prior to spring, but the ceremonial kick off will be next spring,” Dungan said.
Looking back over the work that has brought RES Poly to where it is now, Dungan said it would not have happened without the foresight and a willingness to work with the company on the part of Steuben County and Ashley government.
“We found Steuben County and we’re thrilled. We found Steuben County leaders very open to our concepts and our needs. We really appreciate Steuben’s ability to think outside the box along with us,” Dungan said.
There were other communities where the company was looking to site the plant. At one point, local developer Jim Ingledue was lined up to build the company’s plant in Plymouth, but he convinced RES Poly’s leaders to locate near Ashley in Steuben County.
“It was a decision made for all the right reasons,” Dungan said.
It is expected RES Poly will attract support business that could lead to much more economic development in Steuben County.
“We would hope to be a springboard for other activity in Steuben,” Dungan said.
RES Polyflow plans to employ 130 people at its facility. There are three phases of construction planned. It could happen all at one or over two or three phases, Ingledue said.