Construction to Begin on Plastics-to-Fuel Plant

(rendering courtesy of Brightmark Energy) (rendering courtesy of Brightmark Energy)

California-based Brightmark Energy will today break ground on its $260 million plastics-to-fuel plant in the northeast Indiana town of Ashley. The 112,000-square-foot facility, which the company says will be the first of its kind in the nation, is expected to create 136 full-time jobs when fully operational. The plant will use a state-of-the-art process to recycle plastic waste that has reached the end of its useful life, including items that normally cannot be recycled, such as plastic film, flexible packaging, styrofoam and children's toys, into fuels and wax.

Brightmark Chief Executive Officer Bob Powell says getting to the groundbreaking after more than a decade of planning is "gratifying." In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Powell said the plant and its process are a "conversation changer" when it comes to plastics and the environment.

"There's a lot of good because of the properties of plastics," said Powell. "The issue is that if you do not reuse plastics and we continue to produce plastics that go out into the environment, we've got a big problem. So we set ourselves up for something that's good creating a bad, and that's the wrong kind of situation to be in. Now, the conversation goes from one versus the other to we can have a good environment and use plastics for their good use and then, the next question is, 'How do we deploy this quick enough? How do we do it so that we have enough of an impact soon enough because of the impending issues we have with putting plastics into the waste stream?'"

The facility will initially have the ability to convert about 100,000 tons of plastics into more than 18 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel and naphtha blend socks, as well as six million gallons of commercial grade wax each year. Brightmark has already secured deals with BP to purchase the fuel and AM WAX to purchase the wax products created at the facility.

Powell says the goal is to have the facility up and running by the end of 2020. He says the company hopes to eventually build similar facilities in other parts of the country where they can bring in plastic waste from all of the mid-to-large-size metropolitan areas.

"Once the Ashley, Indiana plant is up and running, what we want to do is have several shovel-ready sites to go that we can then fund with the success of this plant."

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Brightmark up to $1 million in conditional tax credits and training grants, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. 

Powell said the plant and its process are a "conversation changer" when it comes to plastics and the environment.
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