Editorial: Muhlenberg project good for economy, environment - 5/14/2019
The news that CarbonLITE Holdings LLC plans to locate in Muhlenberg Township is encouraging not just from an economic point of view, but from an environmental one.
The Los Angeles-based firm is planning to build a 270,000-square-foot processing facility at 4030 Pottsville Pike. The $80 million plant is to employ more than 100 people and is expected to be operational by early 2020, according to the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, which had a hand in securing the deal along with Berks County and Muhlenberg Township.
CarbonLITE claims to be the world's largest producer of food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate or PET. It already operates plants in California and Texas.
The arrival of this new employer is welcome news, especially in the wake of recent local plant closures and job losses. Chamber President and CEO Randy Peers said the deal is a sign that economic development is on track in Berks County despite those setbacks.
Hopefully this will build momentum toward further job-creating projects in Berks as Peers expects. With the overall economy doing well, it's an ideal time to attract growing companies to our community, which offers an excellent workforce, a prime geographic location and a reasonable cost of living and of doing business.
This particular project also is promising because of the nature of the work being done. Historically, recycled plastic has been converted into a variety of products that cannot be recycled again. CarbonLITE uses a newer technique that enables it to recycle plastic bottles into material that can be used to make new ones.
The company says this approach conserves resources, reduces landfill use and capitalizes on the energy already invested in making existing plastic products. For every pound of recycled material used in the production of new containers, energy use is reduced by 84% and greenhouse gas emission is reduced by 71%. Each ton of plastic containers recycled saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space, according to CarbonLITE.
There's particular urgency in expanding U.S. markets for recycled plastic due to China's decision to stop accepting imported plastic waste. China had been a popular and profitable destination for such materials. Recycling programs still are adjusting to the loss of their biggest market.
There are things that people can do to help the situation.
According to Carbon LITE, the U.S. accounts for 5.35 billion pounds of PET plastic a year, but only one-third of it is recycled. That's a lot of unnecessary waste.
The best course of action is to rely on reusable containers for water and other beverages. But single-use bottles aren't going away. Those who use them should minimize the environmental impact by putting them out for recycling rather than tossing them in the trash.
It's exciting to see Berks County about to get involved in this important endeavor. Any project that promises a more prosperous community and a cleaner planet certainly is well worth pursuing.