Flint-based plastic film recycler becomes largest in Michigan with new $10M plant

Photo of Angela Mulka
Flint was chosen for the $10 million plastics recycling facility over a competing site in Ohio.

Flint was chosen for the $10 million plastics recycling facility over a competing site in Ohio.

Photo provided/Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy

A Flint-based recycling plastic facility is set to become the largest plastic film recycler in Michigan.

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 Monday to unveil ACI Plastics’ new $10 million plastics recycling facility located at 2000 Bagwell St.

ACI Plastics announced it's creating 25 to 30 jobs to operate the facility with wages from $15 to $20 per hour. The company looks to hire beginning in May 2023 and is committed to prioritizing applications from Flint residents, according to an EGLE press release issued Tuesday.

"We are proud to welcome ACI Plastics’ new facility and congratulate their entire team on this milestone achievement," Mayor Neeley said during a Monday press conference at the facility. "The company’s installation of state-of-the-art processing and cleaning technology will make ACI Plastics the largest producer of post-consumer recycled plastic film in Michigan."

ACI Plastics partnered with Luxembourg-based Ravago – the world’s largest distributor of plastic resins serving more than 55 countries – to ship its recycled plastic pellets to customers throughout the United States, according to EGLE. The plastic film, such as shrink wrap and bags used in product packaging, comes from companies like 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 in the Tuesday release.

The company employs about 120 workers at its four locations (two in Flint and one each in South Carolina and Nebraska). It received funding support for its $10 million investment through a $300,000 Renew Michigan EGLE infrastructure grant and a $150,000 Business Development Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

At its peak later this year, ACI Plastics' innovative recycling system is anticipated to process 24 million pounds of post-consumer plastic film each year, with the ability to increase capacity by another 24 million pounds per year if demand warrants.

"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 during the Monday press conference.

Recycling in Michigan is up 35.4% from pre-2019 levels, according to a 2022 EGLE analysis. This equates to the state 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 yearly.

Additionally, since 2019, the state has nearly doubled the number of households with available curbside recycling carts and drop-off sites. Close to three million households — representing three-quarters of the population — have access to recycling in their communities.

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 as products are incinerated, dumped in landfills or lost in the environment.

An investment like the one by ACI Plastics 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 by 2030, exceeding the national recycling rate of 32%, according to EGLE.

Many companies committed to increasing 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.

But 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, according to EGLE.

The recycling process also helps ensure a steady supply of material for manufacturers to work with. ACI Plastics’ approach will reduce carbon emissions and pollution by using waste plastic as a new source of raw material and transforming it into a new material that can be recycled repeatedly without losing quality.