A team of veterans from the recycling industry plans to break ground this month on a new plastics recycling facility in St. Helens to turn millions of tons of discarded plastic bottles into raw materials for re-use.
The new ORPET recycling plant is expected to employ 50 people as it launches and to grow in synch with the regional market for recycled plastic. The project is a collaboration between Dennis Denton of Denton Plastics, the largest plastics recycler in Oregon; Tom Leaptrott of Quantum Leap LLC, a supplier of packaging materials; and the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, which runs the state’s five-cent bottle deposit program.
The end product to be manufactured in St. Helens will be PET polyester flakes, widely used in construction and packaging materials as well as apparel. Some 6 billion pounds of this raw material are used each year nationally, according to Leaptrott.
“It’s an affordable, sustainable product,” says Leaptrott. “This type of recycling has been done for 25 years. It’s a proven process and it’s very clean.”
Local and state officials have praised the project on environmental as well as economic grounds. Recycling plastic bottles locally rather than shipping them to China to be recycled will reduce the burning of transportation fuel, while creating new employment in a community that recently lost hundreds of jobs at the local paper mill.
Leaptrott says the market for recycled plastics crashed during the recession but has recovered powerfully over the past few months. “We won’t have any trouble selling what we make,” he predicts.