IntegriCo Steps Up Use of Plastic Waste that China No Longer Accepts
Hard-to-recycle plastics are being used by IntegriCo to make composite railway products.
In the summer of 2015, I reported on IntegriCo Composites which had just moved from Texas to a new 170,000 ft² manufacturing facility in Springhill, Webster Parish, La., that would allow the company to more than triple its production capacity, with room for further expansion on its 10-acre site. Now, the company has stepped up its efforts to take hard-to-recycle plastics, not accepted by China since its January 2018 ban, to produce its signature composite railway products such as railway crossties and composite grade crossings using its patented and unique manufacturing process.
IntegriCo compression molds railroad crossties, also known as sleepers, from a proprietary blend of recycled plastics. Matt McCooe, the company’s v.p. of sales and marketing told me that the company is the largest of only three domestic companies that make railroad ties using post-consumer plastics. He also noted that IntegriCo is the only one that makes the rail ties via compression molding, versus extrusion, and produces them by its own proprietary compounding and blending process. This process allows the company to compound without having to heat the material to its melting point. McCooe had indicated that they can accept some of the dirtiest material others can’t process because their process can use much lower temperatures.
The company’s expansion then and now is very much driven by strong demand for rail-freight transportation—projected to double by 2035. Too, most ties are still made of wood, which requires lots of maintenance, frequent replacement, and chemicals to prevent decay.
Says IntegriCo’s v.p. of business development Brian Gaughan, “IntegriCo is proud to have diverted over 80 million pounds of plastic away from landfills. This plastic has been turned into our composite products including IntegriTies railroad ties and construction matting through IntegriCo’s innovative technology…. IntegriCo is just one company closing the loop to prevent plastic waste by turning recycling plastic into new material that is long-lasting…As cities struggle for recycling solutions, we aim to keep increasing production of composite material, so this plastic does not go into landfills, or worse, our oceans.”
Whereas most manufacturers using recycled plastic look for PET and HDPE—which includes plastic bottles and jugs—IntegriCo is one U.S.-based company that will accept more challenged plastics with the resin identification numbers of three through seven, along with mixed rigid plastic like buckets, laundry baskets, and crates. Moreover, IntegriCo’s low temperature process has been shown to preserve the properties of plastic, while releasing less fumes, and its final products last longer than alternatives, producing less waste over time.
Current IntegriCo clients include Union Pacific railway, U.S. military, Rock island Arsenal, as well as continuing international shipments to support the infrastructure of Germany and Russia.
A new class of semi-aromatic, high-temperature nylons is being introduced to the U.S. by Kuraray America in N.Y.C.
Medical tubes are becoming ever smaller and thinner while adding new features like high-tech material combinations, more wire braiding/wrapping, and heat-shrink sheathing for strength and kink resistance.
Many conditions must be met to get the best wall distribution in a PET bottle. Skilled operators are, as always, indispensable.