Life doesn’t get any better than this: Evergreen had one incredible year in 2021. When we started, we were a single location, Ohio-based recycling and rPET manufacturing facility. Sure, we were collecting and processing two billion PET bottles a year and selling out of everything we made, but we weren’t setting the world on fire. But when we added a little rocket fuel, well, things took off for us. Take that back. We blasted off!
Never in our 23-year history has there been a year like 2021. In late 2020, our CEO made the decision to pull out the stops and grow as it appeared the stars were aligned. Interest in recycling, and in particular plastics recycling, was way up. Consumer demand for more sustainable packaging and for brands that prioritized recycled content was a trend heard loud and clear. All of a sudden, many of the major consumer products brands, and especially those in the beverage sector, began to pursue food-grade rPET, Evergreen’s sweet spot, for their packaging in far greater quantities than ever before.
Governments and sustainability advocates also joined the push to eliminate plastics in our oceans and reduce reliance on landfills, putting pressure on everyone. Not since the late 1960s and 1970s had so much attention been placed on recycling. It was time to strike while the iron was hot. Here’s a quick recap of what we accomplished in 2021:
We rebranded as Evergreen reflecting our commitment to sustainability and closing the loop on PET plastic. Our distinctive look and new website signaled our intention to be a serious player in recycling and the manufacturing of food-grade rPET production.
We reinforced our commitment to sustainability through a formal Sustainability Audit Program that is designed to help other manufacturing and distribution companies identify opportunities for recycling and reuse and thereby reduce their reliance on landfills and advance the circular economy. This is not a fluff program. We provide real data customers can use to report progress on ESG and sustainability goals.
We promoted the Every Bottle Back Initiative of the American Beverage Association to educate and encourage consumers and others on the importance of recycling all PET bottles.
We added AI-enable robotics to our PET bottle sort lines to modernize a critical portion of our recycling process. These robots, supplied by AMP Robotics, replaced tedious hand sorting and accelerated the process. Our robots are as accurate as they are fast. They pull and sort by color every bottle that runs through our recycling lines
We announced a major expansion of our Clyde, Ohio facility, a move that would double our capacity to produce food-grade rPET pellet. The original plan was to add one new high-volume Starlinger line and upgrade two existing production lines to the same capability. Now the plan is to install two new Starlinger lines. All four lines will be located in a new, 54,000-square-foot building adjacent to the current 238,000-square foot facility. Each line has solid-state polycondensation reactors capable of delivering the higher quality specifications required by leading consumer products brands. The new lines will be commissioned – and celebrated in June 2022.
We acquired a second recycling and rPET manufacturing facility in Riverside, California. This was a big time move for Evergreen, giving us a presence in the Midwest and West Coast. Riverside’s annual rPET capacity is 80 million pounds and this addition tripled our annual capacity. Riverside was a symbiotic acquisition in other ways. They also use AI-enabled robots for sorting and their team is topnotch, with many people who have been with the company for over a decade. A lot of technical experience and dedication at Evergreen Riverside!
We hosted a delegation of Ohio lawmakers at our Clyde facility along with customer Amcor. The purpose was to share how our two companies, working in tandem, are closing the loop on plastic recycling, from preforms to bottles to recycling and producing rPET, and back again to bottles. There were tours and lots of great questions and conversations with our elected officials. They walked away with a great appreciation of companies making a difference for Ohio and the world at large through plastics recycling and production and reuse of recycled content.
We launched a Bilingual Talent Acquisition Program designed to keep our plants staffed and remove language as a barrier to great careers. All of our job postings, hiring and benefits paperwork, and even our training programs were translated into Spanish. We had designated mentors to help new team members for whom English is a second language. The program has been an amazing success and is helping us build a more inclusive, sustainable workforce.
We acquired two more recycling and manufacturing facilities in Albany, New York, and Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada. This deal has made Evergreen among the top three largest producers of rPET in North America and is opening doors we wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago. Having a total of three rPET manufacturing sites (Amherst is dedicated to recycling) added to our capacity but also gave customers a huge dose of supply security. It’s hard to do that with a single location. As with Riverside, we were fortunate to get new team members who are dedicated to closing the loop of PET plastics.
We closed 2021 with the biggest numbers in our history. Evergreen now collects and processes more than 11.6 billion post-consumer plastic bottles a year and we produce 147 million pounds of high quality, food-grade rPET. Kinda takes our breath away.
So now after this year of transformation, Evergreen is ready to enjoy the holidays with our loved ones. We hope you are doing the same. We will be back at it come January 1, 2022 with more big announcements. Something tells us it will be a big year.