Plastics recycling reaches new heights with the launch of a company that works in partnership with Canadian municipalities to reuse curbside collected polyethylene. Montreal, Quebec-based Sol Plastics LP manufactures the end products and sells them globally (in North and South America as well as in Hong Kong and Europe).
The company uses post-consumer polyethylene plastic (both high and low-density) to manufacture reusable plastic pallets and plastic shipping containers for the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and automotive distribution industries. It also makes curbside collection containers for municipalities. The company produces a reprocessed resin for any other firm interested in using recycled content in its own products.
The product line is made entirely from recycled plastic, the majority of which comes from the household collection programs of some 25 Canadian municipalities based in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
The Sol Pastics 100,000 square foot facility has a 30,000 tonne plastic recycling capacity. It can produce up to four tonnes of finished product per hour and 1.25 million plastic pallets per year.
Construction on the site (once a piece of contaminated land which was decontaminated by Sol Plastics) began in December 1997 and was finished eight months and $33-million later. The facility lives up to its own “green” objectives by meeting or exceeding prescribed environmental standards. It’s equipped with a water treatment system and operates at almost zero emission levels. Sol Plastics is a member of the Environment and Plastics Industry Council, a council of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
Partnerships and products
Since its inception, the company has worked to develop solid partnerships with municipalities. “The municipalities are thrilled to have someone to sell their material to,” says Mary-Ann McCarron, purchaser at Sol Plastics. “We’ve worked very closely with them all along and it shows in the high quality of material that we’re getting from them.”
These partnerships have also resulted in new products. For example, Sol Plastics recently manufactured 10,000 curbside collection containers for the Region of Ottawa/Carleton made from polyethylene material collected from the region.
Sol Plastics uses a proprietary system that calls for the post-consumer material to be shredded and washed prior to injection molding. Both low- and high-pressure molding systems can be used.
The company’s primary product is the plastic general-purpose pallet, which is injection molded through a single-unit construction technique. Advantages inherent in the plastic pallet versus the traditional wooden one include decreased costs through reuse, weather and bacteria resistance, increased cargo capacity and easy four-way entry. The plastic pallet is also lightweight, waterproof and durable while the absence of nails or splinters eliminates any potential harm to cargo. The longer life span of the plastic pallet (10 times greater than wood) not only encourages reuse, but it also satisfies the needs of those companies interested in boosting their environmental performance.
Three sizes of plastic pallets are produced: the 40 x 48-inch North American standard; the 45 x 48-inch automotive standard; the 24 x 40-inch standard for the retail and food industries, and the 100 x 120-inch Euro standard. Two other sizes will be available shortly.
In addition to the curbside collection container being produced for the Region of Ottawa/Carleton, the company also manufactures a heavy-duty shipping container (with lid) that measures 16 x 24-inch and is available in three heights of 6, 9 and 12 inches.
By the end of 2000, the company aims to have thirty molding machines in use. One of the new molds expected to come on-stream shortly, Solgrid, has a new plastic retention grid that can contain water or stop land erosion.
“The ideas for new products come from both our research department and our existing customer base,” says McCarron, who adds that any idea has to pass stringent tests before being brought to market.
Lab tests and analyses are also performed on sample materials taken from the plastic bales of post-consumer polyethylene products (including milk, bread and grocery bags to empty detergent bottles). Various factors are measured, such as softness and resistance to impact, traction and flexing. Testing is conducted at the development stage (via computer simulation) and continues through post-production. Sol Plastics expects to obtain ISO 9002 in 2000.
Melanie Franner is a consultant with EPIC, a Council of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association in Mississauga, Ontario.