Polypropylene tubs and lids

International Recycling Group to invest $100M in plastics recycling facility

The company plans to develop a plastics recovery facility to separate and sort residential, commercial and industrial plastics in Erie, Pennsylvania.

International Recycling Group (IRG), a privately held startup company based in Erie, Pennsylvania, plans to build a large plastics recycling plant in Erie. According to an announcement on International Recycling Group’s website, Erie Insurance and The Plastek Group, Erie, have invested $9 million in the facility. 

Erie Insurance is investing in the new IRG plant through its Opportunity Zone Fund based on the company meeting predevelopment progress milestones, IRG reports. Separately, Plastek has purchased an equity stake in IRG’s parent company, GreenSteel LLC.

IRG says its facility in Erie will be a mega-sized, all-plastics “SuperPRF” (plastics recovery facility), and the Erie Insurance Opportunity Zone investment will support plant development, including engineering design, site selection and contract work. IRG has designed a concept for a mega-scale plant that uses smart machines to separate and sort residential, commercial and industrial plastics from homes and businesses; processing the entire universe of resin types and forms, and dramatically reducing the amount of material that enters landfill. 

The company reports that because recycling currently relies mostly on hand sorting and delivering waste plastics to the bag or bin, the plastics are too often combined with other types of nonrecyclable material, which can cause problems for waste haulers and impede municipal efforts to recover more reusable plastics. 

IRG says it believes the future of postuse plastics collection and sortation will involve large-scale facilities that have a sustainable nonlandfill solution for the nonmarketable material. Plastics processors will need to be able to handle all plastics, not just containers, so that more plastic is diverted from the trash and driven to recycling. IRG says its nonmarketable material will be repurposed into its proprietary iron-reducing agent for use in steel manufacturing. 

Plans for its first sorting facility will involve an investment of about $100 million and is expected to start operations in 2022. The facility will provide about 50 manufacturing jobs with future expansion plans for the site.

When completed, IRG says it wants the plant to be the largest and “most technologically sophisticated” plastics recycling plant, automatically sorting more than 275,000 tons of mixed waste plastic material per year. 

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Erie Insurance and Plastek to realize our vision of super-large-scale plastics processing facilities. We could not have found a better place to build our business than Erie after considering all the city’s attributes,” says Mitch Hecht, founder and chairman of IRG. “Erie has such a rich history in manufacturing, and engineering education and research into polymers. And its location makes it a critical link between the Atlantic coast and Midwest markets. These investments allow us to tap into that potential and bring back manufacturing jobs within the new green-tech industrial economy.”

Erie Insurance President and CEO Tim NeCastro says, “Erie Insurance is excited about this investment in the future of our community, and in supporting the region’s environmental sustainability efforts. IRG was considering several locations for this project when they approached us. We engaged our Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership and Mayor Joe Schember and his staff to point out the advantages of coming to Erie, including a ready and willing workforce, a strong plastics manufacturing customer base, the advantage of access to lake transportation and the potential for partnering with our institutions of higher-learning.” 

Plastek Group CEO Dennis Prischak says, “As a large supplier of polypropylene packaging products to consumer products companies around the world, we’re keenly aware of the increasing demand from consumers for postuse content in new packaging. We anticipate that this partnership with IRG will allow us to dramatically increase the percentage of our products that contain recycled materials.” 

Plastek Group has been in the plastics injection molding business in Erie since 1956 as a privately held, multigenerational family business. 

Erie Mayor Joe Schember adds that he and his team are excited to see IRG create an all-plastics sorting facility in the city in order to provide family-sustaining jobs and eliminate waste.