CarbonLite eyeing Allentown for East Coast plant

The world’s largest recycler of post-consumer bottle-to-bottle food-grade PET is, again, building a new reprocessing facility.

This time, the $60 million plant is on the East Coast.

CarbonLite Holdings LLC expects the new facility to be up and running by the end of next year and is in final negotiations for a site near Allentown, Pa., CEO Leon Farahnik said.

The new Pennsylvania facility will join existing CarbonLite locations in Riverside, Calif., and Dallas. Each of those sites handles about 2 billion PET bottles annually. The new facility will boost the company’s total capacity to about 6 billion.

Allentown is north of Philadelphia, and its East Coast location provides access to a densely populated area of the country as well potential access to materials from several bottle bill states in the region.

CarbonLite will receive baled PET bottles that will then be washed and recycled into food-grade material for reuse back into bottles.

“It’s going to be 100 million pounds in [annually],” Farahnik said. “It depends on the yield factor, so we end up with 60, 65 million pounds on the other end.”

Growth at CarbonLite is being driven by its customers’ desire to increase the recycled content of their beverage bottles. Farahnik indicated demand is coming from Nestle Waters North America and Pepsico as the primary driver for the new location. Nestle and Pepsico also drove the need for the Dallas site last year.

“We feel very strongly about recycling. We feel very strongly that bottles cannot end up in landfills or waterways. We are the largest in the world for bottle-to-bottle resin supplied to our customer,” Farahnik said. “It’s my firm believe that the future is recycling.”

CarbonLite has grown to be a major recycler in just six years after opening its initial location in California in 2012. It is No. 12 in Plastics News’ new ranking of North American recyclers.

And the company is not done yet, the CEO said.

He expects a fourth CarbonLite facility could be located in the Southeast in coming years to round out a geographic footprint for the company.

“Recycling is really the right thing to do. They are using the material to make new bottles to help the environment and help their own carbon footprint,” Farahnik said about his customers.

CarbonLite expects to employ about 120 at the Pennsylvania facility once it is up and running during the fourth quarter of 2019.

And while China’s recent push to ban plastic recyclables from importation has been having an impact across the U.S. domestic market, Farahnik said that is not a factor in his company’s continued expansion. He indicated demand for recycled resin from bottlers in the United States is driving his company’s growth.