MMI Brings Japanese Recycling Technology, 30 Jobs To Michigan

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MIDLAND — A Japanese company has developed a method to turn shredded paper into a stronger, greener paper-plastic composite, and Midland’s Michigan Molecular Institute is helping to bring the technology — along with 30 new jobs — to the United States.

The Tokyo-based ECO Research Institute has developed a process that can grind shredded office paper to the micron size range. That “recyclate” is then used as a filler in thermoplastics.

James Plonka, president and CEO of MMI, said the partnership has led to the formation of Eco Bio Plastics Midland, Inc., which will implement the micro-ground paper-plastic composite technology at a new plant to be built in Midland. Groundbreaking is expected before year’s end.

Plonka said Eco Bio Plastics Midland will be a U.S.-based subsidiary of ERI, with MMI providing financial investment and technical support, as well as the development of new technology in the field.

“Part of MMI’s mission is to stimulate economic development based on polymer and materials science in Michigan,” he said. “The partnership that has led to the creation of Eco Bio Plastics certainly fits that description. We believe EBP provides an excellent opportunity to create more quality jobs in Michigan.”

Plonka noted EBP has chosen a site for the new Midland facility, with the expectation to break ground before November and to begin production next summer.

“Midland is a good location for the demonstration facility for a couple reasons,” Plonka said. “First, because of the paper shredding services provided by the Arnold Center, Midland is an excellent source of paper feedstock. And secondly, some of the most innovative plastics research in the world occurs in Midland. It’s a natural fit. Our plans call for the initial paper-plastic composite production facility to produce 10 million pounds per year, with the ability to grow to 100 million pounds per year. The bottom line in the short term,” he added, “is that because of legal and privacy concerns in the business, health and financial sectors, the generation of shredded paper is going to continue to mount, and this research provides a useful, potentially lucrative alternative to simply dumping this paper in landfills, or incinerating or re-pulping it. In the longer term, we expect to be able to utilize this technology to develop a whole host of different applications, across many different industries.”

ECO Research Institute is a Japanese company founded in 1998 by Takamichi Matsushita. Its core business is manufacturing new materials out of industrial waste paper through innovative technology. With numerous manufacturing sites in Japan and Asia, ERI is now regarded as one of the most successful and progressive eco-companies in Japan, as evidenced by its numerous prestigious industry awards. ERI’s major investor is the Development Bank of Japan. More information about ERI is available at its company website at www.ecobioplastics.jp/eri/.

Michigan Molecular Institute, founded in Midland in 1971, is a non-profit organization dedicated to polymer research and education. MMI offers world-class research and development across many areas, including photonics, membranes, specialty coatings, delivery systems and sensors. Its core capabilities include polymer synthesis and design; polymer characterization; polymer science; materials science; polymer formulation and processing; heterogeneous catalysis; silicone chemistry; and biobased materials. For more information, visit www.mmi.org.

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