Republic Services has opened its first polymer center in Las Vegas, the first of several plastic processing centers it says will help meet brand demand for higher volumes of recycled content in the coming years.
Republic expects the Las Vegas Polymer Center to produce more than 100 million pounds of recycled plastics each year, mainly recycled PET flake and color-sorted HDPE and polypropylene meant for packaging and other applications, the company said in a news release. The polymer center will process plastic bottles, jugs and containers collected from homes and businesses.
Republic invested $70 million in the facility and expects to create 60 permanent jobs at the location, it said.
Republic already has a major presence in the Las Vegas market, and the new Las Vegas polymer center is the first of several locations in what Republic calls “a nationwide network.” The second facility is expected to open later in 2024 in Indianapolis.
Republic sees the centers as a key part of the supply chain for brands that have committed to using more recycled content in their packaging and products. The domestically sourced material will “advance a critical need for more sustainable packaging,” said CEO Jon Vander Ark.
Citing a report from McKinsey, Republic estimates that rPET demand in the U.S. could reach 5 billion pounds by 2030, but the supply, based on “current processes,” would only reach about 2.5 billion pounds.
“As a leader in the environmental services industry, it’s our responsibility to challenge every truckload of material we collect. The Polymer Center is another example of our commitment to developing solutions that promote greater circularity and help customers achieve their sustainability goals,” Vander Ark said.
The Coca-Cola Co. is the first announced customer of the Las Vegas Center, Republic said. The beverage company has committed to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030 and will begin using rPET from the Las Vegas location in January, the company said.
Though the companies did not disclose specific deal terms, Pete Keller, Republic’s vice president of recycling and sustainability, told Packaging Dive in July that Coca-Cola “will consume a significant portion of our output.”
In July, Republic also announced it would build four plastic production facilities in a joint venture with Ravago, a polymer recycling and distribution company. The partnership, dubbed Blue Polymers, will build one of those facilities in the vicinity of Republic’s Las Vegas polymer center, the companies said. Another facility will be co-located with the Indianapolis polymer center, Republic said during its October earnings call.
The Blue Polymers facilities are expected to take recycled PE and PP from polymer centers and create recycled resin for food-grade and non-food-grade applications. The joint venture also plans to offer custom-blended and compound products, the companies said in a news release. The companies aim to build the production centers over four years, starting in late 2024.
Republic expects to make an estimated $300 million total investment in four polymer centers, and about $160 million for the Blue Polymer locations, said Brian DelGhiaccio, Republic’s executive vice president and CFO, during the company’s Q3 earnings call.