UPDATE: Sept. 25, 2018: The QRS Maryland plastics recovery facility is officially not going to reopen, as first reported by Resource Recycling, and will be disassembled so its equipment can be sold. Now, Closed Loop Partners CEO Ron Gonen has confirmed to Waste Dive that the firm will be receiving its money back as well. The facility was one of the first projects to receive funding from Closed Loop – an estimated $2 million – and Gonen expressed optimism that it would reopen in an interview this summer.
This week he told Waste Dive via email that “the managers and shareholders of the QRS Maryland facility decided that it would be in the best interest of shareholders to sell the equipment rather than reopen the facility. The transaction was structured in such a way that Closed Loop Fund would be returned its principal and interest in full. Therefore, we supported management’s decision. As investors, we remain bullish on opportunities to recycle more plastics and reuse more recycled plastic in manufacturing."
- A plastics recycling facility operated by QRS Recycling and Canusa Hershman in Maryland will be temporarily closed this month due to tough market conditions, as reported by Plastics News. The $15 million facility opened in November 2015 with a focus on 3-7 plastics.
- In a statement, Canusa Hershman CEO Ethan Hershman cited the need to optimize equipment as a main factor. "The company is currently evaluating several proposals that may lead to a joint-venture or acquisition of the facility," he said in the statement. "These proposals include both well-tested European technology and novel technologies."
- The statement cited economic challenges in the post-consumer resin market and emphasized the need to find a more "viable domestic solution" for the plastic waste stream, especially in light of China's National Sword campaign and more recent import ban announcement. According to Plastics Recycling Update, QRS had experienced difficulty finding markets for polystyrene and PVC last year.
This QRS facility received a lot of attention when it opened in 2015 due to its focus on mixed plastics and capacity to sort up to 4,500 tons of material per month. The project also received $2 million in funding from the Closed Loop Fund, which estimated that the facility could divert more than 650,000 tons of material from landfills over the course of 10 years. Adjectives such as "breakthrough" and "game changing" were used to describe its potential.
While regional markets for these categories of plastic do exist, China remains the top destination and specifications have gotten more stringent in recent years, making it harder even for more advanced facilities. The country's upcoming scrap ban will further tighten the screws on mixed plastics. Yet as single-stream recycling becomes the unofficial law of the land it's unlikely that municipalities will stop accepting juice cartons and yogurt cups in their curbside programs. Some hope that this will spur a push toward more domestic processing. The Closed Loop Fund recently told Waste Dive this may well happen, but also cautioned that many economic barriers remain to upgrading the nation's recycling infrastructure.
Depending on what happens next, this QRS facility could well be a part of that new infrastructure wave. The 60 full-time jobs created by its opening were seen as a boon for the Baltimore area and maintaining them, while also developing advanced processing capacity, would dovetail well with the growing push for a new recycling economy around the Maryland city.