Very Cool Things are Happening in Indiana Recycling

Very Cool Things are Happening in Indiana Recycling

There are quite a few awesome things happening in Indiana recycling these days, and it’s really not what you’d expect. The recent activity has been highly innovative and surprising – far from things like crushing pop cans or separating your bottles. Companies in Indiana have been using advanced technology to make important, and in some cases critical, products from literal discarded or useless trash.

This has been both great for business and for the environment, lowering costs and reducing waste. We’ve gathered some highlights that you might not have known were happening right here in your state.


Rare Earth Recycling

Final permitting was approved earlier this year for a unique kind of recycling operation in Noblesville. It’s called a “rare earth and critical element isolation and purification facility.” In other words, it’s able to purify rare earth elements that are left behind in old materials into high-value raw minerals.

The company running this is American Resources Corporation, which has two facilities in Noblesville. They use a technology called chromatography to recycle metals and battery metals into 99%+ pure materials that can be used in the manufacturing of new products for the infrastructure or electrification market sectors. This process is both economically viable and environmentally safer than mining or other methods, and it also keeps these materials from going to waste in landfills.

The new facility will have two production trains. One for recycling rare earth magnets to recover neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr) and dysprosium (Dy), and the other for recycling battery metals like cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), lithium (Li) and manganese (Mn) from waste products like lithium-ion batteries. A total cost for the facility was not announced.

“Our ability to efficiently navigate the permitting process highlights our chromatography process and facility’s environmentally safe nature, and enables us to scale our operations quickly, with more flexibility and at a lower cost than any other existing method,” said Mark Jensen, CEO of American Resources Corporation.


Recycling the Unrecyclable

Butler MacDonald. Image from Purdue Research Foundation.

The recycling of plastic items isn’t always what most people imagine. Lots of plastic often gets rejected by recycling companies because its contaminated, poorly processed, or otherwise unusable. Enter Butler-MacDonald, an Indianapolis-based company that specializes in just the opposite. They are able to take the scraps that other companies reject and turn them into polymers for any type of manufactured plastic product.

In a way, they’re not just making an output from trash, but from the dregs of it. The kind even other recyclers don’t want.

The company recently added a new extrusion system to boost its capacity by 28%, or over 20 million pounds a year. Around the same time, the prices of virgin resin used in plastic products had risen and manufacturers around the country began to turn to recycled polymers as a cheaper alternative.

“We help companies control raw material costs and meet corporate environmental initiatives,” said Scott Johnson, CEO of Butler-MacDonald.

Most of the plastic scrap that Butler-MacDonald uses comes from industrial settings. Only a small portion comes from the consumer sector. In 2021, the company processed roughly 44 million pounds of recycled resin.


Old Tires into New Products

Bolder Industries Terre Haute Facility – Image from Bolder Industries.

Early this year, Colorado-based Bolder Industries, Inc. announced it had purchased a facility in Indiana and is planning to bring its tire recycling technology to the Hoosier state. The company takes old, end-of-life tires and is able to convert them into the chemicals needed to produce alternatives to carbon black or various oils. Carbon black is a substance used in rubber products like tires, and it is also used as a color pigment in other plastics.

By using old tires and rubber scrap, the company is able to make these products using up to 90% less water than traditional methods and emitting 90% less greenhouse gasses.

Bolder Industries bought the former Pyrolyx facility in Terre Haute, a 66,000-square-foot facility that ended operations in 2020. Phase 1 of the building’s reconfiguration is expected to be complete in 2023 and will represent a $40 million investment. Up to 40 new jobs will be added as a result.

Once it’s complete, the company expects the new facility will be able to divert three million tires from landfills or burning. They plan to increase their overall production levels by approximately three times their former output.

“As a native Hoosier, it’s incredibly rewarding to come back to my home state and revive a great concept and facility,” said Bolder Industries CEO Tony Wibbeler. “The Terre Haute facility is in an excellent location and has great elements that complement our proprietary technology and process.”


Treasure from Trash

One must tip their hat to these companies because they have each found unique ways to actually make treasure out of trash. In perfect accord with the old adage, these firms operating in Indiana are truly making something out of nothing. And that something is a very handsome and environmentally friendlier profit for our state.

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