Companies Cash In on Challenged Recyclables

Paint, mixed plastics, carpet and tires are a few of the recyclable materials considered to be difficult to process and market. But the state of Massachusetts may be opening up new markets for them. Its Recycling Industries Reimbursement Credit (RIRC) grants provide companies with incentives to use those products.

For fiscal year 1998, which ends in July, the Massachusetts state legislature appropriated $400,000 for RIRC grants. Then, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Boston; the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, Boston; and the Chelsea Center for Recycling and Economic Development, Chelsea, Mass., reviewed 30 grant proposals from companies looking to purchase new equipment, or implement research and development strategies.

Eight companies were awarded up to $45,000 each, and two others still are being considered, according to Steve Long, recycling markets planner for the DEP.

To determine the qualifying challenging materials, the DEP examined data from the materials recovery facility (MRF) in Springfield, Mass., and conducted a survey of manufacturers, asking them what materials they considered to have little or no marketplace value. The DEP also collected information on what grant options manufacturers wanted, such as tax credits for equipment or purchase of property.

Grant recipient Greg Conigliaro, president of Conigliaro Industries, Framingham, Mass., purchased new equipment with the $45,000 grant his mixed plastics recycling company received, including a machine that removes metal hosings from plastic. His company grinds computer hosings and other dirty, low-grade or mixed plastic to make pothole filler.

"We now have a separator to pull out the metal, which means we are able to take a lot more marginal material," he says. "Before, we had to practically shut down the plant [if there was metal in the plastic] because we didn't want to ruin the equipment."

The plant now has the capacity to process 50,000 pounds of mixed plastic a day, up from about 5,000 pounds a day, Conigliaro says.

"The markets are so lousy now and there is no free money to spend on capital equipment," Conigliaro continues. "The whole concept of putting money toward creating a market for difficult material makes sense. There is a lot of risk with difficult materials, and companies are not investing a lot of money in these things."

Paint Solutions also received a $45,000 grant to purchase processing and lab equipment for its new Massachusetts paint recycling plant, according to Nancy Niemeyer, president. The Lawrence, Mass., operation was scheduled to open at the end of June and is replacing another facility that went out of business, she says.

The high-quality filtering system and laboratory equipment she is purchasing to test paint properties is crucial to the paint's marketability, Niemeyer says.

"Recycled paint has had this stigma that it is not very good," she says. "When you have quality processing and lab equipment to run tests [and purify the paint], that helps [remove the stigma]."

Headquartered in St. Louis, Paint Solutions also has a branch in Seattle.

The other Massachusetts companies that received grants are: the Center for Ecological Technology, Northampton, which specializes in food waste; Erickson Materials, Woburn, tires and rubber; Global Recycling Technologies, Stoughton, cathode ray tubes (CRTs); Horizon/Sirius Pulp, Russell, aseptics/paper; Perkit Folding Box, Mattapan, mixed paper; and SelecTech, Taunton, carpet/plastics.

"Each company has an economically viable project that helps it achieve the goal of using difficult-to-recycle materials," Long says. "Each has its own unique way of overcoming the economic or technical barriers that accompany what a processor or manufacturer would face in using these challenging recyclable materials."