Encina's proposed plastics recycling plant in Point Township, Pennsylvania, raises health, environmental safety concerns among residents; residents request safety data for company's catalytic cracking process, which company says will not be made public

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SUNBURY, Pennsylvania , June 19, 2023 (press release) –

Jobs, the local economy, environmental safety and health concerns surrounding Encina's proposed plastics recycling facility in Point Township were the predominant questions audience members asked company executives during a 2-hour community outreach at Chief Shikellamy Elementary School's gymnasium Tuesday night.

Encina CEO Dave Roesser began with an overview of what the facility will do. "We take materials that are end-of-life plastics that would ordinarily go to a landfill, sort them, and transform them into base chemicals that can be used again to make new plastics."

Before opening the session up to questions from the more than 100 people in attendance, Roesser explained why the project was important to the community.

"For Point Township and the surrounding area, it will bring significant jobs, significant tax revenue, and significant economic impact," he said. "In the first five years, it will bring over $2 billion in economic impact to the region."

Building the facility will bring 600-900 jobs initially, with more than 300 people operating it once it is up and running, Roesser estimated.

Once all the regulatory guidelines are adhered to and approved by governmental agencies, construction could start as early as the first quarter of 2024, Roesser said.

The site is located on 100 acres, and Encina has a 25-year lease, with an option to extend it twice by five years each.

The other thing this large facility will help with is the problem of plastic waste, Roesser said.

In the U.S. only 10 percent of people recycle, Roesser said. "So what we are doing is taking those plastics that end up in a landfill and reusing it.

"We think that eventually that recycling rate will be more than 10 percent."

All well and good, said Jane Murray, of Point Township, "Why not locate it near Pittsburgh?"

Roesser attributed choosing this location because of the area's proximity to what is called "feedstock," the plastics that will be run through the recycling program. Access to recycllng material in the northeast, like in New York, would provide enough feedstock to put in the plant. He also said that with all the universities and schools in the area, there would be personnel to fill needed positions.

The question of traffic would be a challenge, said Michael Marc, of Encina, with an estimated 114 trucks a day bringing product into the facility.

Lana Gulden, of Northumberland asked about property value.

"Who would want to live near this large recycling plant," she said.

Marc insisted that his data indicated property value would not be affected.

Several audience members disagreed.

Members of the audience questioned the safety of the process, which is currently being tested at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

George Adams, of Point Township, wanted proof, and asked for data that would confirm the safety of this "new catalytic cracking process (breaking down the plastic)."

Roesser said the process "is our intellectual property," which is why the company is not making it public knowledge.

Adams volunteered to go to Texas to observe the operations being tested. An idea Roesser said would not be possible due to the sensitive proprietary nature of one phase of the process.

Another issue raised was taking 2.5 million gallons of water out of the Susquehanna River to "wash" the plastic and then return two-thirds of the water back into the river, "safer than when it was removed by running it through filters that are devised to capture contaminants," Roesser said.

The response drew some skepticism and audience mumbling.

The Point Township facility is intended to be a flagship for the company, which intends long term to build additional facilities in the U.S. and abroad.

Overall, there was much positive feedback about the prospect of bringing good jobs to the area, and the hope that these jobs could keep students in the area.

Electrical union representatives and those in the carpentry trade expressed gratitude that this manufacturing facility would bring good-paying jobs for their membership.

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(c)2023 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.)

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