Camden, Ind. — There’s enough plastic waste in the world to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a recent study. Of the more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, about 5.5 billion tons currently litter our landscapes and waterways. Constraints on recycling technology – plastics generally don’t break down like other materials – have compounded this problem.
But a new facility taking shape in Carroll County, Ind., the first of its kind in the country, aims to address this problem with groundbreaking technology that will convert plastics into diesel fuel. GEP Fuel & Energy Indiana and its partner U.S. Energy Logistics will break ground this year on the $350 million facility, which will house both a recycling center and a plastics-to-renewable diesel refinery.
The new Camden Recycling, LLC will focus on recycling plastic car parts, making it the largest auto plastic recycling center in the country—and the first-ever in the U.S. to convert plastic into fuel. Local officials expect the facility to create 256 jobs by 2020.
The facility’s location in Carroll County is no coincidence, but a nod to the state’s robust freight rail connections and Indiana’s place at the “crossroads of America.” Stephen Hogan, president of GEP Fuel & Energy Indiana, says that proximity to rail service was a deciding factor in selecting Carroll County.
“We really selected Carroll County because, one, we have some tremendous rail logistics benefits there – because our partner, U.S. Energy Logistics, controls the short line – and we’re connected to almost all the major rail lines there, so that made it very attractive,” he said to Inside Indiana Business.
“We really selected Carroll County because, one, we have some tremendous rail logistics benefits there.”
Hogan expects the 450,000 square-foot facility to receive about 40 rail cars of plastic waste each day, or 1 million tons per year, once it’s up and running. Indiana boasts among the largest freight rail infrastructure in the country, with 41 freight railroads operating over 4,274 miles of track and employing 6,223 Hoosiers.
And, for a recycling facility built on the idea of environmental stewardship, freight rail is a natural partner. Trains, which are on average four times more fuel efficient than trucks, are the most environmentally sound way to move freight over land. If just 5 percent of the freight moving by truck traveled by rail instead, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by approximately nine million tons.