RPlanet Earth, previously headquartered in El Segundo, California, has opened its 302,000-square-foot plastics recovery and production facility in Vernon, California, which also serves as its headquarters. The plant is designed to produce 80 million pounds of food and drink packaging annually using a bottle-grade flake production system supplied by Germany-based Krones that includes a front-end bottle sorting system supplied by Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), Eugene, Oregon. The highly automated BHS purification system processes more than 6 tons per hour (tph) of baled postconsumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and runs nearly 24 hours a day, according to a news release issued by BHS.
BHS says the system employs BHS screens, Nihot air, NRT optical and Max-AI robotic sorting technologies to produce a highly pure clear PET product for further processing. Five NRT optical sorters with In-Flight Sorting technology remove metals, mixed plastics and colored PET and positively sort clear PET. The Max-AI AQC-2, an artificial intelligence-directed robotic sorter, uses a camera, neural networks and two robots to autonomously perform the final quality control (QC) process. BHS also supplied the plant with its recently launched Total Intelligence Platform. This system automatically processes information from the system’s controls system and motors, optical and Max-AI equipment, scales, baler and other sensors to provide an easy-to-use information and analytics platform, the supplier says.
The plant recovers aluminum and other metals and mixed plastics for further processing by other companies.
RPlanet Earth does not sell recycled flake or pellets but processes PET bales and converts them in-house into bottle preforms, extruded sheet and thermoform packaging.
Krones MetaPure technology meets approved scientific guidelines of the large consumer packaged goods companies and is greenlit by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to produce food and beverage-contact products, BHS says in its news release.
“We really are a technology company,” says rPlanet Earth co-CEO Bob Daviduk. “We’re going to bring technology to bear to improve the way that postconsumer PET is recycled. We’ll have the lowest carbon footprint of any packaging in the marketplace because of the way we’ve put the plant together.”
“This is a really amazing process, and we are honored to have supplied the front-end system for Krones and rPlanet Earth,” says BHS Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rich Reardon. “This system fills the demand for RPET from producers and is also a domestic outlet for our MRF (material recovery facility) operators—it’s a true win-win. The commitment to technology really led to an impressive, automated and high-performance system, and we look forward to working with rPlanet Earth and Krones to ensure their continued long-term success.”
Earlier this year, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) approved a $2 million California Climate Investment loan to rPlanet Los Angeles LLC to help pay for the PET recycling infrastructure at its new facility in Vernon.
The financing from CalRecycle’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Loan Program is earmarked to allow rPlanet to transform 1,000 tons of plastic scrap into packaging each year, create 52 new jobs and reduce the equivalent of 1,500 metric tons wort of CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually.