- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Believe it or not, the automobile parts in your car may have originated from recycled carpet, and the clothing you're wearing once may have been plastic soda bottles. It's a multistep job for these transformations to take place.
Prince George's Container Recovery Inc. known in the industry as P.G. CRinc. in Capitol Heights processes 150,000 tons of recycled materials a year. Jim Marcinko, the region recycling manager at the company, says everything from metals and cardboard to newspaper and plastics comes through the plant. The goods are sorted and sent to companies that use them to make new products.
"We package the separated items by putting them onto a conveyor, and they drop into a machine called a baler, which squashes them," Mr. Marcinko says. "We store it until we get 20 tons of material and then ship it via tractor-trailer truck."
Wellman Inc. in Johnsonville, S.C., is one of the companies that receives materials from P.G. CRinc. Steven Carreras, manager of curbside procurement at Wellman, says the plant takes soda bottles from the Prince George's company and turns them into resins and fibers. Fiber and film waste also are recycled through the company and made into fibers.
"There are two popular ways to recycle soda bottles," Mr. Carreras says. "When we recycle bottles, the recycled material is not broken down into its chemicals. The aggressive method of recycling would break the soda bottle down into the original chemicals, which are purified terephthalic acid and monoethylene glycol. Our way of recycling is less aggressive. We use less energy."
Once the soda bottles are cleaned, Wellman Inc. makes them into a flakelike substance. That material is heated and becomes molten polymer with the consistency of molasses. The material is pumped through a small piece of steel called a die.
"Depending on the die you use, it's cooled and either becomes a fiber or a resin," Mr. Carreras says. "We have separate operating plants for fibers and resins that use different dies. The holes in the dies for making resins are larger than the ones for making fibers."
The resins are sold to bottle manufacturers, who make them into new bottles. The fibers are sold to carpet, apparel and fiberfill manufacturers, who create finished items such as shirts, carpets and stuffing for pillows, furniture, jackets and sleeping bags.
Since 1978, Wellman Inc. has recycled soda bottles. Before that, it recycled postindustrial waste that could be turned into fibers. In the 1970s, when the plastic soda bottle was introduced, that presented another opportunity for recycling. Today, more than 2 billion bottles per year are recycled at the company, which operates not only in the United States, but also in Europe.
"The resins we create are used by Coca-Cola and Pepsi," Mr. Carreras says. "Coca-Cola has announced that by 2005, 10 percent of their bottles will be made with at least 10 percent recycled content."
He says recycling saves energy and raw materials while making a viable consumer product.
"Instead of throwing things in the ground, you find an afterlife for them," Mr. Carreras says. "No pollutants are put into the air through recycling. It's a nonaggressive process where you're not breaking down the product. You heat the product and re-form it into another product."
Pratt and Rogers Environmental Industries Recycle America in Youngsville, N.C., is another company that receives materials from P.G. CRinc. Dana Rawson, office manager at PREI Recycle America, says the plant specializes in processing soda bottles, milk jugs and laundry-detergent bottles. The recycled materials eventually are used to make carpet, clothing, plastic packaging and solid plastics for houses and fences.
Once received, the containers are separated into categories by color, such as clear soda bottles, green soda bottles, white milk jugs and bright laundry bottles. Then the factory grinds the materials and ships them to its clients.
"At the next step, it goes through a wash process," Ms. Rawson says. "The labels float up to the top while cleaning."
Mark Ryan, manager of environmental initiatives at DuPont in Kennesaw, Ga., says DuPont receives carpet from P.G. CRinc. The carpet is sent to the company's recycling plant in Calhoun, Ga.
"If the carpet has a nylon face fiber, we're able to recover that nylon from the face fiber," Mr. Ryan says. "Then we melt and filter it and make it into a resin that then can be used to make under-the-hood automobile parts, such as air-cleaner housings or fan shrouds."
Bobby Jackson, manager of human resources at Bear Island Paper Co. in Ashland, Va., says the company receives 300 tons of newsprint and magazines a day, some of which comes from P.G. CRinc.
"First, the washing process removes dirt and foreign material from the paper," Mr. Jackson says. "The ink is removed, and individual fibers are released. That fiber is mixed with virgin fiber from a tree. It's taken through a drying process from which we produce newsprint."
Newspapers buy large rolls of paper from the mill, he says.
"Recycling has assisted us with our quality," Mr. Jackson says. "In the long run, it probably saves money."
Mary Jarrett, president of Amazing Recycled Products in Denver, Colo., says advancements in science have allowed more and more products to be recycled. Mixing various items, such as newspaper and sawdust, with plastic to make new products is a popular technology.
"The waste from jean or denim factories can be ground up and blended with plastic to form a plastic pellet," Ms. Jarrett says. "It is then used to be molded into various things, such as piggy banks, pencils, rulers and visors."
The same principle is used for money, she says.
"Since the federal government is making new bills, the old ones have been recalled and shredded by the government. Then they are sold. So there was an excess amount of old bills available," Ms. Jarrett says. "You take the old bills and paper waste from factory equipment and blend that and mix it with plastic."
At her Web sites (www.amazingrecycled.com and www.recycledstore.com), Ms. Jarrett features the latest recycled products, such as stemware recycled from liquor bottles and hand-painted plastic fish recycled from plastic soda bottles and hotel shampoo bottles.
"Styrofoam cups also have been made into plastic pellets," she says. "Those pellets can be made into opaque black rulers."
Whatever is being recycled, it's not as simple as it seems.
"It is a very scientific process," Ms. Jarrett says. "It's not something that is easily done."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide