Plastics Recyclers Enhance Mixed Plastic Capabilities

Connector Winter 2019

Merlin Plastics and Peninsula Plastics Recycling are making substantial investments in mixed-plastics processing capacity, bringing positive news for a region hard hit by China’s ban.

The operations are installing lines for sorting mixed-plastic bales into discrete materials, some of which they’ll further process. Based in Turlock, Calif., Peninsula Plastics is a subsidiary of Merlin Plastics, which has locations in British Columbia and Alberta.

With easy access to trans-Pacific shipping, the West Coast has long been dependent on China for recycled material markets, including for low-grade plastic bales. As a result, this region has been heavily impacted by China’s import restrictions. The Merlin and Peninsula projects could help provide homes for low-value mixed-plastic bales produced by many communities, including those without sophisticated sorting capabilities.

Tony Moucachen, CEO of both Merlin and Peninsula, recently shared details about the companies’ projects with Plastics Recycling Update. “We don’t believe it’s going to be a walk in the park,” Moucachen said. “It’s a challenging project with the prospect for only modest returns at best, but we are committed to this business. We believe we have a part to play in the packaging lifecycle and we believe that we are good at it and we look forward to being a part of the solution.”

In British Columbia, Merlin Plastics is installing another mixed-plastics sorting line that will boost capacity by about 30 million pounds per year. That will increase intake capacity for LDPE, PP and PS by 15 to 20 percent at the New Westminster, B.C. plant.

The New Westminster facility sorts a number of grades of plastic. Merlin’s B.C. plants process the LDPE, PP and PS, and its Calgary facility processes the PET.

Merlin’s new sorting line is scheduled to start up during the second quarter, Moucachen said. It’ll arrive in two phases, with 15 million pounds of capacity coming on-line immediately and another 15 million by the end of 2019, after additional equipment is installed.

Moucachen noted the risks involved with building a business around mixed plastics. He said indications are that Asian buyers, including those in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are back and knocking on doors to purchase North American bales. As a result, some suppliers are hesitant to sign long-term contracts with domestic outlets.

“Today, there is more competition in 1-7 bales than there was yesterday, and we expect that tomorrow it will be more than today,” he said. “We expect that the export market will eventually come back and be active again, and that demand for all grades will therefore increase.”

Source: Plastics Recycling Update