Officials with the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy joined with Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Genesee County state legislators and business leaders to unveil Flint-based ACI Plastics’ new state-of-the-art plastics recycling facility. ACI Plastics invested over $10 million in the new facility.
ACI Plastics also announced it will create 25-30 new jobs to operate the plant with wages from $15-$20 per hour. The company is looking to hire new employees beginning in May 2023 and is committed to prioritizing applications from Flint residents.
“We are proud to welcome ACI Plastics’ new facility and congratulate their entire team on this milestone achievement,” Mayor Neeley said. “I am very excited about these opportunities brought by ACI Plastics, and I want to thank them for their continued investment in our great city.”
The company’s new state-of-the-art processing and cleaning technology will make ACI Plastics the largest processor of post-consumer recycled plastic film in Michigan.
The firm is partnering with Luxembourg-based Ravago – the world’s largest distributor of plastic resins serving more than 55 countries across the globe – to ship its recycled plastic pellets to business customers throughout the United States. The plastic film, such as shrink wrap and bags used in product packaging, comes from companies such as Meijer, Amazon and Walmart.
The recycled pellets from ACI Plastics will be shipped and turned into new products by Michigan-based consumer goods and automotive companies, including Petoskey Plastics and Grand Rapids-based manufacturer Cascade Cart Solutions, which makes plastic recycling carts and bins.
“We like going to sleep every night knowing that you’re not only doing something to help the environment but also providing a good living for many employees while enjoying a successful business,” ACI Plastics President Scott Melton said.
ACI Plastics employs about 120 workers at its four locales (two in Flint and one each in South Carolina and Nebraska). The company has received funding support for its investment through a $300,000 Renew Michigan infrastructure grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and a $150,000 Business Development Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Flint, Michigan was chosen for the project over a competing site in Ohio.
The Renew Michigan funding is part of EGLE’s strategy to support recycling infrastructure, improve the quality of recyclable materials, and promote market development using the Renew Michigan Fund, which the Legislature created in 2019 to bolster the state’s recycling efforts. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature are committed to raising Michigan’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and 45% by 2030, exceeding the national recycling rate of 32%.
“Michiganders are recycling now more than ever before, and it’s because of the technological advances and tremendous work being done by companies like ACI Plastics,” EGLE Acting Director Dan Eichinger said. “This progress represents a bipartisan effort in a historic partnership with the Michigan Legislature in combination with the nonprofit sector and business community that Michigan has never seen happen before.”
EGLE Environmental Justice Public Advocate Regina Strong added, “Equally important, EGLE and the Whitmer administration are introducing new opportunities to promote recycling, help support our climate change goals, and create new jobs in communities that have been historically underserved by our state, including Flint, as well as Detroit, Pontiac and Grand Rapids.”
At its peak later this year, ACI Plastics innovative recycling system will process 24 million pounds of post-consumer plastic film each year with the ability to increase capacity another 24 million pounds per-year if demand warrants.
“I am extremely impressed by what we’re seeing happen here at ACI Plastics in Flint and across Michigan with regard to increasing investments in recycling,” state Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint) said. “By helping to build out domestic markets for recycled goods, we help to support key Michigan industries like automotive, construction materials, and paper product manufacturing, while also preserving the environment for the next generation.”
ACI Plastics’ cutting-edge wash line will allow for the recycling of Michigan-produced recycled plastic content to be kept in the State of Michigan for reuse rather than be landfilled or shipped to other states or countries for recycling.
Maintaining the quality of recycled materials so that they can be used in manufacturing of new products is a persistent challenge. This challenge is being addressed by the investment of ACI plastics with the support of funds from EGLE and MEDC.
“The grants announced today that have helped ACI Plastics are part of the largest push in state history to promote recycling activities that divert materials from Michigan landfills, boost local economies, and support Gov. Whitmer’s climate change priorities through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said state Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint).
Each year, more than 380 million tons of plastics are produced globally. Less than 10% of these plastics are reused or recycled, leading to significant accumulation and waste as products are incinerated, dumped in landfills or lost in the environment. Investments like this to support a circular economy for plastics is a key part of Michigan’s work to reduce climate change and work toward the 45% recycling goal identified in the MI Healthy Climate Plan, the broad-based roadmap to a sustainable, carbon-neutral Michigan economy by 2050.
Many companies have made commitments to drastically increase their use of recycled content in their packaging or products including Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Danone and Unilever. Using recycled content in packaging reduces life-cycle environmental impacts and helps to create markets for the material that Michigan residents recycle at the curb.
Here’s the challenge: There’s not enough plastic recycled for companies to meet mandates or their public commitments. That is why Michigan is investing in the NextCycle Michigan Initiative to attract innovative businesses to the state and form partnerships such as its collaboration with ACI Plastics to connect the recycled content supply chain – from the curb to new products made in Michigan.
The recycling process also helps ensure a steady supply of material for manufacturers to work with. ACI Plastics’ new approach will reduce carbon emissions and pollution by using waste plastic as a new source of raw material and transforming it into pellets that can be recycled repeatedly without loss of quality.
ACI Plastics is part of a growing segment of the Genesee County economy that is at least largely centered on recycling, noted Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance Executive Director Tyler Rossmaessler.
“Flint and Genesee County is a community of makers and doers – where manufacturing muscle, a culture of innovation, and strength of character intersect to create real, rare opportunity,” said Rossmaessler. “ACI Plastics exemplifies our city’s hands-on work ethic and can-do spirit.”
Recycling in Michigan has reached a new all-time high, up 35.4% from pre-2019 levels, according to a 2022 EGLE analysis. This equates to Michigan now capturing over 500,000 more tons of cardboard boxes, milk cartons, plastic bottles, organic material, and other recyclables, equating to more than 110 pounds per person each year.
Since 2019, the state has nearly doubled the number of households with available curbside recycling carts and drop-off sites. Nearly 3 million households — three-quarters of the state’s population — now have access to recycling in their communities.
EGLE statewide and regional data show Michiganders’ understanding of recycling best habits has increased in every corner of the state. EGLE leaders attribute much of Michigan’s improved recycling success to the state’s Know It Before You Throw It awareness push featuring the Recycling Raccoons that launched in 2019. The campaign was honored as the 2019 national “Campaign of the Year” by industry trade publication Waste Dive magazine.
For more information on recycling in Michigan, visit: www.RecyclingRaccoons.org.