McELHATTAN - The Clinton County Solid Waste Authority is looking to partner with a Berwick recycling firm to take tons of gas drilling-related plastic from the local waste stream.
SWA officials Jay Alexander and Mike Crist provided the authority members with an update on the project at Wednesday's meeting of the board.
The concept is a relatively new effort to reclaim marketable plastic by recycling the plastic liners used at the Marcellus Shale gas well sites.
Alexander described the idea as a "promising new business venture" and said the first-of-its-kind partnership involves a new plant in Berwick created by Ultra-Poly, one of the largest recyclers of polyethylene and polypropylene plastic in North America.
Crist said the plant itself is a revived facility that had been used for other purposes in an earlier day. He said the materials are reduced to pellets which are then sold to other recycling firms for use in the creation of new products, like plastic timbers and railroad ties.
"We've received some 2,100 tons from well sites including the plastic liners, and it's generated some $440,000 in income," Alexander said. "Some 320 tons of that is sent to Berwick."
Alexander said the material arrives in bulk at the landfill, is separated and is shipped to Berwick, which has become the closest plastics transport destination for the landfill.
"We're very hopeful about this," Alexander said. "We're tweaking things and just getting our feet wet in the process. Hopefully we'll chug along with a long-term market to get rid of plastics that might otherwise fill up the landfill ... If things go well, we could lower the charges for the recyclable materials and develop the market for them."
Ultra-Poly, with partnering firm WellSpring, issued a press release indicating the new effort could take at least 20 million pounds a year of plastic well pad liner material out of the waste stream and turn it into new products.
About 100 million pounds of plastic were used for well pad liners by drillers in the Marcellus Shale region in 2011.
Currently, most of that material is disposed of in landfills when it needs to be replaced or removed.
WellSpring has developed special equipment for separating well pad liners on site so the pieces form one well site can be trucked away for recycling in a single trailer load.
In the past, excavators ripped the liners into large sections and it took eight to 10 trips with roll-off containers to take sections from a single site to a landfill for disposal.
In that same release, Alexander is quoted as saying the landfill has been very active in looking for sustainable recycling opportunities, and this particular effort appears to be promising.
WellSpring and Ultra-Poly have invested roughly $4 million in research and development.