NURRC suspends operations
NURRC suspends operations
By Editorial Staff
Although neither company could be reached for comment, it appears that the PET recycling joint venture operated by the Coca-Cola Co. and United Resource Recovery Corp. LLC (URRC) has ceased operations.
Media reports in Plastics News  and local outlets earlier this week said sources indicated that all 50 workers at the NURRC facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina had been laid off in early March, with the office staff following in early April.
This account differed significantly from a statement released by Coca-Cola following the story, which specifically states that the facility was not shut down, but was instead being restructured and upgraded with new equipment.
"We invested in this joint venture with URRC to extend technology that would increase access to valuable recycled content for use in our bottles. That objective has not changed," read the official statement from Coke. "While we cannot discuss the specifics of the restructure plan, we can assure you this will not impact Coca-Cola's commitment to recovering and reusing our plastic bottles."
The ambitious joint venture was supposed to help Coca-Cola reach its goal of utilizing 25 percent post-consumer PET in the manufacture of its beverage bottles by 2015. When it opened January 14, 2009, the 30-acre facility promised an annual capacity of 100 million pounds of PET and was hailed by Coke as the first step in the company's goal of eventually recycling 100 percent of its PET bottles sold in the U.S.
However, according to sources speaking to Plastics Recycling Update, the Spartanburg, South Carolina plant consistently failed to produce recycled PET at a quality suitable for use in food contact bottles and packaging. Persistent discoloration problems resulted in much of the rPET sold for use in fiber and strapping, or for black thermoform packaging manufactured by Associated Packaging Technologies, which has since been bought by Sonoco.
These quality control problems were speculated by some to be the result of NURRC's unconventional process, which washes material after it has been turned into flake. Others fault the plant's management and the partnership with Coca-Cola, pointing to other facilities – including URRC – which had previously utilized the processing technique without any trouble. They allege that Coca-Cola did not provide adequate funding to continue operations and that, as a result, the PET processor was behind in payments to suppliers. Plastics Recycling Update has confirmed this with one of NURRC's largest suppliers.
Sources that have recently visited the Spartanburg plant say there is still considerable excess inventory at the NURRC site and that the operation did not suffer from lack of supply, but rather from very poor bale quality.
Plastics Recycling Update will continue to follow this story as it develops.
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