Recycling plant proposed for Salinas area expected to bring in jobs

     

By PHILLIP MOLNAR
Herald Staff Writer

A plastic recycling company plans to turn part of the former Firestone plant outside of Salinas into a hub for, potentially, hundreds of green jobs.

Command Packaging, which is based in Vernon, plans to open its Encore Recycling facility in the Firestone Business Park at 340 El Camino Real in October. Renovation on the 124,500-square-foot portion of the plant, which will use plastics from the agricultural industry, has already begun.

The company says it will immediately provide 40 manufacturing jobs in October and up to 100 by 2014. CEO Pete Grande said if the company is successful he foresees hiring 500 people.

''We intend to be a part of the community and we mean more than just the jobs,'' he said Friday morning. ''... We're moving our management team for this project into Salinas ... and the intent is to hire as many people as we can from that area.''

Grande said they plan to eventually turn 100 million pounds of agricultural plastic each year into reusable plastic bags.

''The whole vision is to recycle with a purpose," he said, "We're going to take this plastic that growers need to use every year to put food on our table, and instead of sending it to landfills, we're going to recycle it.'' Grande said his company will invest $8 million to get the facility off the ground and, if his plan to sell reusable plastic bags works out, up to $40 million.

He said he originally planned to open in August or September but it took longer than expected to get approval through Monterey County.

"We're a little behind,'' he said, ''so we're pressing to try to get opened as fast as we can.''

He admits opening in October is ambitious but said he gives it a 70 to 80 percent likelihood it will open in that time. According to its county planning application, the facility will use a process that involves shredding plastics into small fragments, washing them clean of contamination and drying them into plastic pellets.

It will run for 24 hours a day and deliveries will be accepted Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The initial traffic estimates from Encore a maximum of five trips a day for trucks.

The water used will be a 100 percent "closed loop," meaning all water used in the wash will be reused. The part of the Firestone Business Park the company will use was previously used by Monterey Pasta. Encore Recycling has a 20-year lease.

Grande said the company was focused on the agricultural market and it made sense to locate in the center of it. He said the plant will be an advantage to growers who will not need to travel long distances to recycle.

Although there are recycling facilities in the area, general manager Aviv Halimi said none of them could handle the scale of plastic needed to be recycled by the agricultural industry. He also said many products used by growers are not accepted by recyclers, such as strawberry mulch, the massive plastic sheets which cover strawberry fields. Thomas Flewell of Dole said in a news release the operation will recycle 135 tons of his company's plastic, resulting in ''significant cost savings.''

Grande said the move to Salinas was influenced by his experience starting Command Packaging in 1989, when most plastic bag makers were leaving the state.

"We needed to make California our home,'' he said. ''We weren't going to enjoy living here but not put businesses here.''

Salinas councilwoman Kimbley Craig said despite the new facility being outside of the city limits, it was still a win for Salinas.

''There will be new residents who are participating and eating and spending money in the city of Salinas,'' she said, ''and that's great. Kids in school. Come on board.''

Grande said his goal is to create full-time jobs with benefits and will begin job fairs in September. In the meantime, he said interested applicants can email Halimi at [email protected].

Although there will be a variety of different skill levels for jobs, he said applicants will likely need at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or [email protected].

Command News

COMMAND PACKAGING: 800.996.2247 | 3840 East 26th Street, Vernon, CA 90058 | www.commandpackaging.com

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