Dow Chemical Co. is getting back into the recycled-content resin game.
The company has struck a deal to market resins made by recycler MRC Polymers Inc. to automotive customers.
The Dow Automotive unit will market the resins under the Retain brand name. Recycled-content polycarbonate and PC/ABS are available, with recycled content-grades of polypropylene and PET to be introduced this month.
'We had taken a stab at (recycled-content resins) in the past, but we didn't have as much success as we would have liked because we didn't have enough expertise,' Dow Automotive market manager Dean Palmieri said in a telephone interview. 'Now with MRC we're in a great position to do so.'
The partnership also is being driven by major automakers' requests for minimum recycling content in parts for new vehicles. Ford Motor Co. announced plans in 1999 to set levels of recycled plastics, rubber and glass per vehicle.
Dow of Midland, Mich., expects Retain-brand resins to be used in interior auto parts such as defroster grilles and HVAC ducts, in exterior parts such as luggage racks and wheel covers, and in underhood applications such as engine covers.
MRC of Chicago's recycling-first philosophy separated it from other companies Dow was considering as a partner, Palmieri added.
'Most recyclers start out as compounders and add recycling, but MRC started out as a recycler,' he said. 'For them, recycling isn't a product line extension or an `Oh, by the way' afterthought.'
MRC also can produce resins with up to 100 percent recycled content, while some other companies Dow considered could go no higher than 25 percent to 40 percent, Palmieri said. MRC President Dan Eberhardt, who founded the company in 1980, said the Retain line 'will provide the industry with a serious choice when it comes to using recycled plastic materials in demanding automotive applications.'
The automotive market makes up 10 percent to 20 percent of MRC's business, but Eberhardt said he hopes that will change with the Dow partnership.
'Automotive is a difficult market for a small company to penetrate, and most recyclers tend to be small companies,' he said. 'We think Dow has a lot to offer in this area.'
Fourth plant opens in 2002
MRC operates two plants in Chicago and a third in Mount Vernon, Ind. Its fourth plant, also in Chicago, is scheduled to open in early 2002. All Retain resins will be produced at MRC plants. The plant will employ 25 and will double MRC's total annual capacity to 100 million pounds. The building will be on a 10-acre site that includes room for another plant.
The Dow-MRC deal does not include Prima Plastics LLC, a Chicago compounder owned by Eberhardt's wife, Maria Aguilar de Eberhardt, but it could be expanded to include Prima later, Dow's Palmieri said.
Dan Eberhardt owns 40 percent of Prima, which was launched in 1999 to benefit from business being sourced to minority suppliers by Tier 1 automotive suppliers.