Fayetteville, N.C.—Eighteen months after Shaw Industries and DAK Americas announced the creation of a joint venture company, Clear Path Recycling (CPR), to recycle post-consumer plastic drinking bottles, executives of the three companies gathered to cut the ribbon of the completion of phase one on what will eventually become the largest recycling facility in North America.
Ron Salati, CPR’s vice president of administration and commercial sales, called the official start-up a “milestone. Four years ago [Shaw] issued a challenge to DAK to create a way to feed Shaw. What you see before you is the result of a great deal of hard work and dedication of our parent companies in their sustainability initiatives of reducing environmental impact while creating a viable product for use in their product offerings.”
Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO, gave a number of reasons as why two companies, “may differ in the products and services we deliver,” can come together to create a facility like this. Most notably, “We are united in our commitment to business excellence, innovation and sustainability. Clear Path is a result of these shared values and will benefit both companies in our respective markets.”
He pointed out that Shaw “has a long-standing relationship” with DAK’s parent company, ALFA, through a joint venture in Mexico. “This relationship has created strong business trust, as well as strong personal relationships between ALFA, DAK and Shaw management. This level of trust and integrity makes it easy to be in business together.”
Hector Camberos, president and CEO of DAK, added that Shaw and its parent company have worked together for almost 20 years and it was this long partnership that helped allow the “vision” become a reality even during these tough economic times, which “[have taken] a toll on everyone.”
For Shaw, Bell said, this partnership represents “a great opportunity to enhance some of our most beautiful and sustainable carpet products. The recycled PET from Clear Path will give us the ability to provide our customers with the attractive, durable, and environmentally responsible flooring they desire. And it will help us further reduce our use of virgin raw materials, saving energy and moving us closer to our environmental goals in the process.”
Hal Long, Shaw’s executive vice president of operations, added, “Clear Path stands to help us make significant progress toward our commitment to reduc- ing overall energy intensity by 25% by 2017,” noting the bottle recycling will save approximately 1.9 trillion BTUs of energy—an amount equal to the average energy necessary to power more than 20,000 U.S. homes each year.
Billions of bottles
Phase one has the capability to recycle up to 160 million pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the equivalent of 2.85 million post-consumer drinking bottles. When the second phase is finished in a couple of years, the facility will have an annual capacity of 280 million pounds or about 5 billion bottles per year.
Post-consumer bottles are collected from around the country and brought to the facility where they are separated, cleaned and shredded into recycled PET (RPET) flake.
During an exclusive tour of the facility prior to the ribbon cutting, a Clear Path official told FCNews its take about one hour from the time a bottle first enters the state-of-the-art operation to exiting as RPET flake. The operation was built on DAK property to take advantage of existing resources, such as water treatment. In emphasizing the facility’s innovative features it was notd that water used to clean the bottles is returned to the river system “probably cleaner than when we took it out at the start of the process.”
The flakes made from clear bottles is then trucked to Shaw where it is extruded into polyester fiber to be used in the mill’s ClearTouch carpets, which currently incorporate a minimum of 25% post-consumer recycled content.
David Morgan, Shaw’s vice president of manufacturing, said as capacity allows, “we will be increasing the amount of post consumer flake we insert into our products.”
Shaw and DAK will be the primary users of the RPET flake in their respective polyester based products, which besides carpet includes fibers and resins. The remaining product will be sold for merchant use.
Morgan noted Shaw and DAK will receive a combined 75% of CPR’s output and the remaining 25% will be sold externally.
Edythe McKinney, director of North Carolina’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach, said Clear Path is a prime example of how vision and hard work can not only get results but “do so with good, sound environmental practices which are good for the bottom line,” adding the facility will add to the 15,000 jobs in North Carolina in the recycling industry.
This facility, she noted, can demonstrate that from a small contribution from citizens, putting a bottle into a recycle container, “we can create products that are used in the home.”
J. Keith Crisco, North Carolina’s secretary of commerce, added, Clear Path “is an example of company doing a good job and creating jobs.”
It was noted that Clear Path has so far created more than 85 permanent jobs in the area.
“The creation of Clear Path with DAK, along with our traditional relationship on supply of virgin polyester materials, can potentially yield new innovations, new technologies, and new opportunities,” Bell said. “We look forward to the two companies maximizing this potential in the years ahead.”
Potential could be the development of a way to eventually recycle the post-consumer carpet made from RPET, thus creating a complete closed loop cycle, similar to what Shaw currently does with carpets made from nylon 6 fiber at its Evergreen recycling facility.
Today, Morgan explained, these post-consumer RPET products would go to Shaw’s new Re2E facility, where they would be converted to fuel. “Shaw is committed to sustainability through innovation. We don’t have all of the answers today, but we are committed to continue dedicating the resources and the capital to find new innovative solutions for post-consumer carpet.”
Long concluded, “Above all else, the potential of Clear Path to help us provide our customers with the beautiful, environmentally responsible products they desire—while helping us move toward an even more sustainable future —is testimony to our ongoing commitment to ‘Sustainability through Innovation.’”
Recycling the numbers
During the ribbon cutting ceremonies, the following numbers were mentioned when it comes to the plastic bottles and recycling:
- There were approximately 24 million bottles waiting to be turned into RPET flake at the grand opening.
- It was estimated that in order to get to the facility, those bottles were touched by 400 million people.
- Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
- Each year, a typical American family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk and 26 gallons of bottled water.
- The average American household used 45 pounds of PET plastic bottles in 2009.
- If all those bottles were recycled, it would yield 12 square feet of carpet, 20 extra large T-shirts and three sweaters.
- More than 1.4 billion pounds of PET bottles and containers are collected in the U.S. each year for recycling.
- An empty 2-liter PET soda bottle weighs about the same as 10 sheets of copy paper.