An agricultural plastics recycling center that will easily dwarf the Salinas Wal-Mart in size is slated to begin operations this fall in the Firestone Business Park, eventually employing up to 500 workers.
The deal, brokered by Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services in Salinas, will bring to Monterey County the newly formed Encore Recycling, a subsidiary spun out of Vernon-based Command Packaging. Command is a privately owned maker of plastic and reusable shopping and restaurant bags. Its customers range from The Cheesecake Factory to Cost Plus World Markets.
Agriculture is a plastic-intensive industry, creating 100 million pounds of plastic waste every year — that’s like burying the weight of the USS Missouri in California landfills every 12 months.
Pete Grande, the chief executive officer of Command Packaging and Encore Recycling, explained his concept of a “closed loop” company. As a maker of plastic bags, Command is also a major recycler of plastic.
“We’ve tried to be a solutions company for two decades,” Grande said Friday from his Vernon offices. “We recognize there is a problem. And implementing a sustainable recycling model that works for the consumer, the grocery store, and the environment, is a win-win for all.”
The Encore plastic will be recycled into reusable plastic bags called Smarterbags that will be manufactured by Command, Grande said.
The recycling process will focus on four primary types of agriculture plastic waste: fumigation film, mulch film, drip irrigation tape and the “hoop” plastic that covers greenhouses. Other plastics, such as the liners in wooden harvest crates, will also be recycled, Grande said. The plastic will be gathered from farms in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and San Luis Obispo counties.
Regional economic development officials say the Encore project is exactly what Monterey County is hoping to attract — the marriage of agriculture with green technology. David Spaur, director of the Monterey County Economic Development Department, said the success of the deal was owed in a large part to inter-agency cooperation, as well as working with Command to meet its needs.
“The company was very flexible and helpful, and the county staff was very flexible and helpful,” Spaur said.
For example, if an industrial site has what is called a general development plan, then a company can cruise in and go through the permitting process in roughly a month. The Firestone Business Park does not, so that would normally extend the process to six months and add another $6,000 in costs to the business. Spaur said that working with Greg Findley, partner with Cassidy Turley who headed up the brokerage side, and Marti Noel, in charge of special projects for the county Planning Department, they were able to run some of the permitting processes concurrently to speed up the timeline for Command.
The agricultural community appears to be on board with the project. Dole, Driscoll, Pacific Gold Farms, Ramco, Red Blossom Strawberries, and a number of independent growers, are listed as partners with Encore to ensure that their plastic is collected and recycled.
“It offers us the unique opportunity to avoid sending approximately 135 tons of agricultural plastic to the landfill,” said Thomas Flewell, a spokesperson for Dole Berry Co. said. “We anticipate that participating in the program will result in significant cost savings.”