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The Problem With Mixed Plastic Recycling

The Problem With Mixed Plastic Recycling

An idled plastics recovery facility has fallen idle and is being closed down permanently just a few short years after it opened as one of the first and few recycling centers designated for mixed plastics. The former joint-venture QRS Recycling plant in Dundalk, MD went offline in August 2017. The center was unique in that it accepted mixed-plastic bales of material to be recycled and separated them into individual resin and color streams. The owners had been working to bring the plant back on-line with a new investment partner but now more than a year after the plant went offline, those efforts have been scrapped. It seems the owners and managers were unable to find anyone willing to buy the plant or partner with them to help offset the costs. Without an investor, the 128,000-square-foot Baltimore-area facility has closed permanently, and some of its equipment is being parted out for sale.

The Reason Why

All of this is thought to be due to the high cost of recycling plastics in general and the added labor and costs of managing mixed plastics in the wake of China’s announcement last year that the country would begin to prohibit recycled PET, PE, PVC, and PS from being imported to the country for recycling. The country filed a notice with the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in it, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said those scrap plastic resins that had been imported for the U.S. would no longer be accepted. This was bad news for the United States as much of our recycling, and almost all of our plastic recycling has been handled for years by offshore recycling plastic sortation plant in places like China.

Now almost a year later, the U.S. is still struggling to compensate and still has a massive pile-up of plastic recycling material that cannot be effectively or efficiently recycled at this time.

“Canusa Hershman and partner QRS Recycling opened the Maryland plant in 2015, siting it to serve regional MRFs and reclaimers. The facility included a bottle sort system and wash line, and it would bring in mixed plastic bales from MRFs for further sorting. That made it one of the few U.S. outlets for mixed plastics Nos. 3-7. The facility was one of the first industry efforts to receive financial support from the Closed Loop Fund, a group backed by consumer-products giants and other companies that works to bolster U.S. recycling through corporate financing. The group provided a $2 million loan for the QRS plant. But less than two years after opening, the facility publicly indicated it was experiencing obstacles. In August 2017, QRS and Canusa Hershman said they would idle the plant to 'enable an optimization of the equipment.' They also announced they were looking at several proposals that would bring new technology into the facility, and that could lead to a joint-venture or acquisition of the facility” (Resource Recycling).

A Year Later

Now almost a year later, the U.S. is still struggling to compensate and still has a massive pile-up of plastic recycling material that cannot be effectively or efficiently recycled at this time. This has called into question the processes we have been using and how our dependency on other countries to handle our recycling and waste disposal is not affecting us in a powerful and very negative way.

 Time will tell what the solution will be but something has to be done, and until then, we are here to make the difference that we can. Call us today at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources, LLC to see what you can do!