A company with Akron roots will soon be using its technology to take plastics that are not recyclable and turn them into fuel.
The former RES Polyflow, housed since about 2004 in the former Akron incubator now known as the Bounce Innovation Hub, is now a subsidiary of Brightmark Energy, a San Francisco waste and energy development company.
In May, Brightmark broke ground in Indiana on a plant that will take 100 tons of plastics a year and turn it into low-sulfur diesel. It will also produce paraffin wax used for candles and wax-coated cardboard, said Jay Schabel, president of the Brightmark Energy Plastics Division. Schabel joined the former RES Polyflow in Akron in 2008 as its CEO.
The company was started by chemists, including some from B.F. Goodrich, Schabel said.
The plant is being built in Ashley, Indiana, he said. Sites were also considered in Ohio.
Plastic rejects from recycling and trash haulers in Chicago, parts of Ohio and southern Indiana will be used as the initial materials, Schabel said. He checked and facilities in the Akron-area are not yet working with the company to provide materials, though the company hopes to expand its area.
The company is also working with towns closer to its facility to provide residents with special bags to provide their unwanted plastics.
The plastics the company wants are all the things that are not recyclable, things like plastic bags, shrink wrap, styrofoam and even toothbrushes.
“You name it, we take it all,” he said.
Schabel said the company didn’t know that the changes in the recycling industry — and the reduction in what plastics are accepted curbside — would be helpful to them.
“We knew technologies like ours would be valuable for that bottom layer [of plastics that aren’t recyclable]. Little did we know that bottom layer would remain at 91% of the plastics.”
Unfortunately, consumers can’t directly provide the unwanted plastic to the company, he said.
The $200 million facility should be ready to convert unwanted plastics to fuel by the fourth quarter of 2020.
Schabel said Brightmark hopes to replicate the facility elsewhere in the country.
“This plant starts defining what’s possible. That’s where you start developing the evolution of recycling,” he said.
It is also still early in the stages — Schabel said Brightmark is only taking 2% of the plastic available in the 100-mile radius of the plant.
Another Northeast Ohio company has also been working on similar technology.
Vadxx, which is headquartered in Cleveland but has employees in Akron, “continues to have discussions on multiple continents about implementing its waste plastic to fuel technology on a scale that is badly needed to address the worldwide growing plastic pollution problem,” said Jim Garrett, Vadxx CEO. “The Vadxx technology is proven; now the challenge is commercialization on a broader scale.”
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher