Environment & Science

Plastic bottle recycling plant opens to make more plastic bottles

Plastic bottles packed for shipping to a recycling plant.
Plastic bottles packed for shipping to a recycling plant.
Nemo's great uncle/Flickr

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Gov. Jerry Brown visited Riverside Friday morning to attend a groundbreaking ceremony at what promises to be one of the largest plastic recycling plants in the country. The facility aims to decrease new plastic bottle production, as well as the export of plastic to China.

The 250,000-square-foot CarbonLITE recycling center is nestled on Riverside’s eastern edge, where rows of warehouses give way to rugged foothills. When it’s fully operational, workers at the plant will hack, scrub and melt mountains of old plastic bottles for use in new plastic bottles.

CarbonLITE president Neville Browne calls it "cradle-to-cradle" recycling.

"To distinguish the type of recycling that we’re doing here from the more traditional idea of recycling, this is effectively plastic toys into fence posts," said Browne, speaking inside a windblown tent at the plant’s opening ceremony. "What we’re doing here is genuine cyclical recycling; plastic toys to plastic toys ad infinitum."

"Little complicated to follow all that," joked Gov. Jerry Brown after listening to Browne’s spiel. "But I think I got it. By the way, that’s going to happen to all of us too! Don’t feel too good about it. We’re all gonna be recycled."

The governor praised CarbonLITE’s goal of reducing the number of plastic bottles exported to China. By some estimates, California ships about half-a-billion pounds of plastic to Chinese recycling centers every year.

"What this plant demonstrates is the wave of the future: efficiency, elegance and sustainability," said Brown.

At full capacity, the CarbonLITE plant will operate round the clock, and recycle up to 2 billion plastic bottles a year.