[GRRN] An engineer dedicated to recycling plastics

Myra Nissen (myracycl@inreach.com)
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 20:30:55 -0700

I told my friend, John Williams - plastics engineer from Texas, that
GreenYes was interested in hearing more about his work designing
closed-loop recycling applications for plastics. Here is his reply. He
asked me to post it for him. You can send e-mail directly to him at
john_williams@empak.com as he is not on the listserve.

Myra Nissen

> Ok Here Goes,
> What I started working with in the eighties was a concept. I called this
> "Closed Loop Recycling". I probably stole the catch phrase from some article
> I had read or perhaps some conversation. The name fit the concept and I
> moved forward. The point is to collect the plastic product at the end of its
> useful life cycle and return the polymer into the same application. Plastics
> in and of themselves are a fantastic resource. The probabilities are high
> for most polymers to be rebuilt and reused. While this isn't new news to
> hardly any of us, it's worth mentioning from simply the standpoint of good
> business practice. If you purchase raw materials to make a "wigit" for 1.75,
> but could probably get the same raw materials for a buck, which would you
> do? This is very simply the whole program in a nut shell. If recycling makes
> economic sense all will buy into it.
> Economically speaking the goal is to concentrate your efforts on polymers
> with a market value of approximately 1.15 per pound (virgin resin) or you'll
> turn no profit. I won't bore you with the details, however, the plastic can
> then be collected world wide, reground, purified, pelletized and certified
> to meet a standard set of virgin polymer criteria. This polymer would then
> used in its original application.
> The next challenge for me was equipment. There is literally hundreds of well
> intentioned entrepreneurs out there in plastic-land who want to sell you
> bits and pieces of process equipment. Some are engineering groups who put
> together complete systems designed for task specific applications. I've
> looked at many and tried about the same number with little success. It's
> like trying to put together a Mac with an IBM motherboard. Both good
> systems, just don't work well together.
> In the final analysis, I became a process engineer and began to research a
> method where we could clean, decontaminate and prepare collected raw
> materials in a quality controlled process. Then compound this using what we
> like to call "Pure Polymer Service" techniques. The end result of this is
> the development of a program called "One Time Use".
> Years ago (and still in some applications today), the makers of memory media
> for the computer industry re-used their packaging materials. After each use
> the company would wash the package and after careful inspection reuse this
> until the part failed inspection. Today they use a new cassette with each
> shipment of product. This packaging product is molded in a Clean Room and
> the media is packaged in a Clean Room. The polymer used to manufacture this
> package is recycled using the same package for raw materials each and every
> time.
> In the last 7 years we have improved the process to the point that the
> recycled polymers are more pure than it's origin virgin polymers, they are
> more stable in the molding process, and aesthetically pristine. Yes we have
> quality problems in all phases, but comfortably can say after 5 years of
> consistent data, that the process and products are stable.
> John D. Williams