From plastic to concrete, new recycling facility opens in York County
A company that turns all types of plastic into material for concrete has opened a state-of-the-art recycling facility in York County.
The facility, located in the 300 block of Eberts Lane in York City, recycles all types of household plastics into Resin8, a mulch-like material that is used as an aggregate in concrete to strengthen it.
"Resin8 is a synthetic eco-aggregate that does enhance the performance of concrete," said Ross Gibby, chief operating officer for the Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration.
One of the key benefits, Gibby said, is that the process prevents more plastics — some of which aren't accepted by traditional recyclers — from ending up being burned in the incinerator or buried in the landfill.
The recyling company, which is based in Costa Rica, was founded in 2018 and has operations in eight countries. York County is home to its first facility in the United States.
Using a patented process, plastics are shredded, mixed with minerals and turned into lumps that are shredded into the pebble-sized product dubbed Resin8.
According to Gibby, the facility can process up to 1 ton of plastic per hour. They accept items that people traditionally do not think of as plastic, such as Styrofoam or chip bags. Even items with food waste on them can be accepted.
CRDC does not make the concrete itself but sells the plastic material to other companies that make concrete products, Gibby said. And using Resin8 in concrete does not affect the ability to recycle the concrete later.
“Let's say at the end of 80 or 100 years — when a building gets torn down — that concrete can be crushed up into rubble and then reutilized as aggregate in another life of concrete," Gibby said. "So, it is fully circular, even after we move it from the plastic circular [recycling] loop into the concrete circular [recycling] loop.”
Although the majority of the plastic that the facility uses is from industrial sources, Gibby said the facility accepts plastics from environmental groups who clean up litter and from households.
When plastic arrives at the facility, it is sorted into several designations — such as household or industrial plastics — before being placed on a conveyor belt, Gibby explained. Any metal items are removed as the belt passes beneath a magnet. Then the plastics are pulverized in a shredder, reducing them to tiny pieces roughly 1 inch long.
A second conveyor belt takes the shreds up to a hopper where they are shredded into even finer confetti-sized pieces.
The second step is to "pre-condition" the plastic. It is mixed with mineral additives — including lime and ash — to deodorize it and help it better adhere to concrete, Gibby said. That step produces a mix of gray, dusty-looking plastic scraps.
From there the plastic is taken to the third step, extrusion. The plastic mixture is put in a hopper and sent through the extruder, a long metal pipe that heats up the plastic. It is pushed through by metal arms rotating inside and produces a thick dark gray paste. The paste is blasted with air as it comes out, causing it to expand "like a cheese puff," Gibby said.
From there, the expanded paste drops into a cool bath to harden. The bath is the only part of the process using water, and it recirculates the water, leaving a minimal carbon footprint unlike other plastic recycling methods, Gibby said. The hardened, expanded material now has an open cell structure and resembles a "plastic lava rock," he said.
These "lava rocks" have made it to the final stage — one last shred. The "rocks" are run through one more shredder and collected in large bags. The final Resin8 product resembles small bits of gravel.
Resin8 is sold to companies that make concrete products, including the local York Building Products, Gibby said. As the company continues to expand, CRDC is selling to some national companies as well.
While he couldn't discuss prices, Gibby said Resin8 is sold with a slight "green premium" to help cover the cost of its creation. The hope, he said, is to expand the business beyond its first U.S. location in York County.
In addition to serving commercial customers, the CRDC has launched a "Bag That Builds" program in which residents can pick up bags, fill them with household plastics and drop them back off to be turned into concrete aggregate material.
For now, there's one CRDC drop-off location in York County: the Refillism zero-waste store at 38 S. Beaver St. in York City Mayor Michael Helfrich plans to announce additional drop-off locations soon. Residents can drop off household plastics without the green bag, but clear or light-colored bags are preferred so workers can ensure no non-plastics are processed, Gibby said.
To learn more about CRDC and Resin8, visit https://crdc.global/.
— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.