CarbonLITE, a producer of raw plastic material used to make new bottles, said the site will recover more than 2bn plastic polyethylene terephthalate(PET) bottles annually.
Previously, most plastic bottles were exported to China and downcycled into polyester fibre.
Neville Browne, president of carbonLITE industries, told FoodProductionDaily.com the firm were ‘competitive’ in bidding with Chinese firms for the recycled PET and outlined the benefits.
“Then the jobs and the carbon benefit will stay in California. The trapped carbon in the bottles is a state resource that should be used in the state in which it is generated... not sent to China.
“Most of our bottles come from theCalifornia Redemption Value (CRV) program that is a deposit system that results in about 500m pounds (227m kg) being collected annually,” he said.
The site will specialise in processing used plastic bottles into PET pellets and resin used to manufacture new beverage bottles.
It is expected to be at full capacity in the third quarter of 2012. The second phase to double production to 4bn PET bottles annually is scheduled for later this year but will not be fully operational to the second quarter of 2013.
The plant opened in November last year and is currently running at around 65% capacity.
When asked about the factory’s claim of saving 48m gallons of gas, Browne said: “Any reference to energy saved is based on the simple fact that the carbon footprint of business to businesses rPET is around eight times better than using virgin.”
Browne added: “We are at thebeginning of the end of the ‘disposables’ age and the start of the beginning of the ‘re-make-ables’ age.
“For an item to be able to call itself ‘re-make-able’ it must be designed in a way that is totally sympathetic to being recovered and remade back into the same product.
“This would influence many aspects of the product and packaging design…from material type, to colour, to label material, to label glue, to mechanical design (thickness etc).
“Being ‘re-make-able’ is an important first step. The next critical step is to ensure that all ‘re-make-ables’ are actually ‘remade’.
“We can still have all of the benefits of single-use but everything will need to be recovered and remade. ‘Disposing’ of stuff will have to be a real no-no, probably prohibited by law,” said Browne.
The used bottles arrive in bales, they are segregated by type and colour, washed, and chopped into corn flake-like material. The flakes go through a decontamination process and will be used as a direct substitute for virgin material in all PET applications, said the firm.
In a speech at the official opening, Browne added: “When a new bottle is made from an old bottle that was in turn made from an even older bottle there is zero natural resources used for the feed-stock… zero.
“And the carbon footprint is dramatically less. More than eight times less carbon in fact.
“When a new bottle is made from a used bottle the feedstock contains zero virgin recourses and it reuses the preserved molecule…over and over. It uses the ultimate renewable resource…earlier generations of itself.”