RECYCLING: It Takes a Recycling Village

Recycling may be perceived as "the right thing to do," but what should you do once you've collected the materials and there aren't markets for the recyclables?

The answer, according to Terry Pinto, CEO of Environmentally Correct Projects Inc., Vero Beach, Fla., is obvious. He created his own markets by building an industrial business park for companies that use recyclables to make marketable products.

"There was a lack of markets for the different recyclable materials, and a lack of new products made from the materials," he says. "When you step back and look at the problem, we were collecting a lot of material to use but had no users to use it. Communities were spending money moving the materials around, but the economics weren't working well."

Pinto believed that a village of waste-related industries that would take used materials and turn them into new products could help keep recycling alive. So he took his idea to investors, who were sold on the real estate opportunities.

Blount Parrish and Co. Inc., Montgomery, Ala., which provides tax-exempt bonds for solid waste and recycling, partially funded the $12.8 million park.

In fall 1998, the testing ground for Pinto's idea, the 158-acre Lewis and Clark EnviroTech Business Park in Wood River, Ill., began - complete with all the amenities afforded "regular" industrial parks, such as state and Enterprise Zone benefits. In addition, Wood River's community rating and city debt were not affected.

Wood River's population of 8,500 is expected to be too small to provide adequate recyclable waste for EnviroTech's tenants. However, Pinto plans to collect "raw products" from communities within a 100-mile radius of the city.

Furthermore, part of the park is expected to house a materials recovery facility (MRF), which will give park tenants easy access to recyclable materials that come from the surrounding region. The MRF also will ensure that tenants have a local source of materials before going to outside businesses.

The first park user is Enviro-Stone Products of Wood River Inc., which broke ground in October 1998 and will recycle used mixed glass to manufacture commercial-grade tile. Owned by Environmentally Correct Projects, the plant expects to use 20,000 to 24,000 tons of glass per year to manufacture 4.8 million square feet of tile products for the construction industry, according to Tim Grahl, executive vice president of Environmental Stone Products, an Allenton, Wis.-based distributor of Enviro-Stone's products.

Pinto says two additional facilities should open by the end of this year, including a facility that converts waxed cardboard into fuel pellets, and a facility that converts tires into chemicals and other byproducts.

Eventually, Pinto hopes to duplicate the success of Lewis and Clark around the world. What sold Wood River commissioners and city officials on the recycling park was that the businesses required no more amenities or tax breaks than other industries, but they brought new industries and income to the area, he says.

"We have six locations that we're looking at for a park and we are looking at opening a recycling business in an existing industrial park," Pinto says. "There's a menagerie of producers of recyclable products. In a lot of cases, it's come here, give it away for nothing or go to a landfill. What we use normally is destined for a landfill."