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Brightmark Plans to Build $1 Billion Plastics Circularity Center in Georgia

The announcement comes just two years after Brightmark had to scrap a similar project in a different Georgia community.

Norbert Sparrow

April 24, 2024

3 Min Read
waste-sorting conveyor
Welcomia/iStock via Getty Images

In the race to mainstream advanced recycling (aka chemical recycling), there inevitably will be losers and winners. Late last week, we reported on Encina abandoning plans to build a $1.1 billion advanced recycling plant in Pennsylvania, bowing to community opposition because of environmental and health concerns. Just about two years ago, it looked like Brightmark was on the losing side when it scrapped plans to build a $680 million advanced recycling plant in Georgia. Local officials in Macon-Bibb County expressed skepticism that Brightmark could deliver on its promises, effectively scuttling the project. That was then. Now, Brightmark has announced a deal with the city of Thomaston, GA, to invest $950 million to develop a 2.5-million-square-foot plastics Circularity Center.

400,000-ton annual plastic recycling capacity.

San Francisco–based Brightmark said that the facility will have capacity to repurpose more than 400,000 tons of plastic per year using its proprietary Plastics Renewal technology. The company claims that it can convert discarded plastic content into materials to create new circular plastic products, diverting waste otherwise bound for landfills, incinerators, and waterways. The technology reportedly repurposes existing material on a large scale, including hard-to-recycle plastics from a variety of sources, such as industrial sites, manufacturing facilities, and schools. The company also partners with material recovery facilities (MRFs) to capture post-consumer plastic.

Related:Chemical Recycling of Plastics Continues to Gain Ground

Brightmark founder and CEO Bob Powell said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that no fuel will be produced at the Thomaston plant nor will it burn plastics.

The investment will bring nearly 200 advanced manufacturing jobs, according to Brightmark. The company also intends to pour $20 million of that investment into infrastructure projects, including upgrades to utilities, roadway improvements, rail access extensions, and other necessary resources.

Environmental, health concerns top of mind.

Brightmark also emphasized its commitment to protecting the Thomaston and Upson County environment, particularly the water, air, and land that surround the site. The company said it will invest more than $1 million on Zero Liquid Discharge technology to ensure that all process wastewater is managed and processed on-site, thereby preventing contact with any municipal water supply. The Circularity Center will be considered a synthetic minor emitter — implementing the best available technologies to reduce emissions.

Brightmark said it will implement detailed procedures to ensure employee safety, including “strong training on critical areas such as operating procedures, emergency response, remediation, and lifesaving protocols.” The Health and Safety team will establish a detailed emergency action plan for Thomaston that goes beyond regulatory requirements, the company added in its news release.

Georgia is definitely on CEO's mind.

Brightmark CEO Powell is a Georgia native, which may explain why he has been so determined to build a plant in that state. The company’s first and, thus far, only operation in the United States is located in Indiana. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer a circular solution that will make a positive environmental and economic impact on a region so near and dear to my heart,” Powell said in a prepared statement.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Brightmark has been working with Thomaston and Upson officials for nearly two years to build the Circularity Center. “Local leaders were aware of the pushback Brightmark faced in Macon, and [Upson County Chairman Norman] Allen said local officials worked with the company to address environmental concerns. Allen said he and other local leaders toured Brightmark’s Indiana plant and met with leaders and residents there to learn about the operations and community impact,” writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brightmark’s previous effort to build an advanced recycling facility in Georgia foundered because it failed to meet a deadline showing that the facility in Ashley, IN, could deliver the recycled products to other users in that state, which was conditional to pursuit of the Macon-Bibb County deal.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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