Trash tour

Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, left, and Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, tour the Brightmark plant in Ashley where they walk by bundles of waste plastic that will be converted to fuel and industrial waxes July 23. Brightmark has put out a call for suppliers of waste plastic for its plant in Ashley and ones that will be coming online in the next few years.

ASHLEY — Brightmark, the waste plastic to fuel conversion company, has put out a call for literally mountains of waste plastic to fuel its operation in southern Steuben County and new plants it plans to bring online in the coming years.

The company announced July 30 that it is starting the largest ever solicitation for plastic waste and will deploy its proven, breakthrough circular solution for converting all types of plastic waste into sustainable fuels and other high value products, a news release said.

Currently the company is sourcing its waste plastic through local providers, like the Northeast Indiana Solid Waste Management District, local marinas and RecycleForce, Indianapolis.

But now, the company is working to procure more than 1.2 million tons per year of post-use plastic types 1 through 7 from the eastern half of the United States for recycling at its existing and soon-to-be-built plastics renewal plants nationwide.

“Brightmark is on a mission to reimagine waste and wants your difficult-to-recycle plastics — and we want all of them,” said Brightmark CEO Bob Powell. “Plastics 3-7, in particular, are not easily recycled with other technologies and typically end up in landfills, incinerators, or sadly — in our oceans. We’re proud to have a proven, breakthrough closed loop solution for transforming these raw materials back into useful products.”

Brightmark’s call for plastics represents the company’s ability to provide a solution for a recycling industry that faces the end of plastic exports and the disruption of curbside collection programs nationwide following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brightmark’s first advanced plastic recycling plant, serving the broader Midwest market, located in Ashley, is now in testing and will bring the facility to production-scale early next year. The company is in the final phases of determining the locations of its next recycling facilities in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and/or Texas. Brightmark plans to make its final site selection decisions by the fourth quarter of this year and have at least two sites shovel-ready by 2021.

Brightmark’s proprietary plastics renewal technology takes single-stream, post-use plastics and converts them into ultra-low sulfur diesel, naphtha, and wax, on a commercial scale. The process is also capable of creating the building blocks for new plastics, thus enabling a circular economy in the plastics industry. To date, the company has successfully disrupted particularly challenging waste streams, including boat shrink wrap, e-waste and children’s car seats.

“This is a challenging moment for recycling in the United States, but those challenges are now being met with innovation by companies like Brightmark,” said Brightmark’s Chief Development Officer Zeina El-Azzi. “We’re rising to this challenge and calling on materials recovery facilities and waste collection companies to reach out to us today about how we can help to alleviate the overwhelming supply of plastic waste they’re facing.”

Brightmark anticipates that its next phase of advanced plastic recycling projects will be operational by 2023, and these facilities will process a minimum of 400,000 tons of post-use plastics each year. The company is developing hubs for materials collection throughout the eastern United States, which will gather and bale materials for shipping to its recycling plants.

“Our partnership with Brightmark has enabled us to dramatically increase the amount of materials we can accept for processing,” say Gregg Keesling, president of RecycleForce, a social enterprise organization that trains formerly incarcerated individuals for jobs in the recycling industry. “They’re taking 1,700 tons per month of our plastics from televisions, computers, car seats, hospitals and other products. And now that we have a consistent customer for those materials, we can train, hire and help more people.”

Interested suppliers must be able to provide a minimum of 1,000 tons of feedstock per year, and should reach out to Brightmark via Suppliers must be contracted with the company by Nov. 15.

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