Jul. 20, 2017 – Dan Klein – WSAZ

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) – Officials cut the ribbon Thursday on a project worth $120-plus million and could eliminate hundreds of millions of pounds from landfills.

The revolutionary technology is coming to the old Dow Chemical plant, just west of Hanging Rock near the Scioto County line.

It also means the products you use every day could soon be better than ever for the environment.

“Let me tell you, this is a big deal,” said Steve Alexander, president for the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

The targeted material by PureCycle Technologies is polypropylene plastic, the hard plastic found in items like bottle caps and yogurt tubs. There’s even an average of 60 pounds of it in your car. Often it is dyed various colors, and depending on what it’s used for, it might even smell.

Up till now, if you tried to recycle it, the result is gray or black. It can’t be used for many things, think battery casings and flower pots. But with this new technology, it turns into clear or natural colored beads that can be substituted for new plastic.

“They are making a premium product,” said Mike Otworth, PureCycle’s CEO. “They want it to look premium, whether that’s the interior of a car or a Tide bottle, it needs to look attractive. To date, most recycled resin plastic doesn’t look attractive.”

Which is why Thursday is so attractive to area leaders: $120-150 million investment, 60-plus jobs paying an average of $40,000 a year, utilizing technology found nowhere else.

“I think southern Ohio and even bigger now, I think the entire Tri-State region being home to something like this really says a lot about our workers and our workforce here in the whole region, both Kentucky and West Virginia, as well,” said Jason Kester, executive director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority. “I think it really changes that narrative of we’re just coal mining and that low-technology jobs, to have this type of investment in our region, is going to be a great thing moving forward.”

The goal for PureCycle Technologies, which is partnering with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, is to make 100 million pounds of pellets annually at the Lawrence County plant by 2020.

“Most of this material that will be used in stuff that would otherwise end up in a landfill,” Otworth said.

“This is going to explode the demand for the material,” said Alexander.

A small scale plant is slated to open early next year aimed at perfecting the optimum mix, bringing 10 jobs, before the large-scale commercial production ramps up two years later.

Still, for area leaders like Kester and Bill Dingus, the executive director for the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation, there’s much excitement.

“This is powerful because it means a lot of good jobs,” Dingus said. “It means new technology.”

“I think it will be a big help to the area,” Kester said.

“I really feel like this area is on its way back, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of it,” added Otworth.

Otworth tells us PureCycle intends to build nine production facilities worldwide at first. But even with that, the Ohio facility could expand, too, depending on needs.

Polypropylene plastic is the second-most used plastic in the world.

Alexander said the need for virgin-quality polypropylene is immense. Manufacturers need 1 billion pounds of the recycled material just in North America, with the majority needed — 720 million pounds – for the high-quality plastic which hasn’t been available until now.