D&W Fine Pack streamlines recycling process

March 13, 2023
A recently installed line from Gneuss eliminates the need to buy and process recycled pellets.

From the Spring 2023 issue of Plastics Recycling.

By Ron Shinn

The growing demand for products with recycled content is causing some OEMs and processors who already make these items to re-evaluate their processes to find the sweet spot between material supply, available technology, manufacturing efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

D&W Fine Pack, a manufacturer of food packaging and foodservice disposables that already processes PET sheet with up to 100 percent recycled resin, in January commissioned a new line at its Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant that uses technology from Gneuss Kunststofftechnik GmbH that eliminates the need to buy and process recycled pellets. Instead, D&W Fine Pack will be able to buy recycled post-consumer PET flake. 

The Gneuss MRS extruder also eliminates the need to crystalize and dry flake before it is extruded. That means the line will use an estimated 29 percent less energy than D&W Fine Pack’s other 30 extrusion lines. The new technology also means lesser grades of recycled material can be used.  

“One of the beauties of this technology is it gives our procurement people the ability to go out and buy on the fringes a little bit more than what some of the other technologies allow,” says Russ Stephens, vice president of engineering at D&W Fine Pack. “Not only did we invest in this MRS technology, but we invested in a pretty sophisticated material receiving, handling and blending system. 

“Now we can blend A-level, B-level and C-level post-consumer flake together to get us to the most economically viable cost point,” Stephens says. “Some of that material may not have been able to go into packaging in the past because it was not clean enough or was too blue or the intrinsic viscosity was too low. But now, at least in our case, we have the material handling and extrusion technology to be able to blend it appropriately for whatever the particular application might be.”   

The new material handling system was designed in-house using parts from various suppliers. The new line is the first PET line in the Fort Wayne plant. Resin previously has been delivered by truck and rail, but now the plant must be able to handle resin delivered in super sacks or boxes.  

D&W Fine Pack has been purchasing PCR pellets for about 10 years. It also purchases post-industrial flake. 

Stephens estimated that today, about 10 percent to 15 percent of the resin D&W Fine Pack purchases is recycled material. “But I would expect that within the next five years, it would be 30-plus percent,” he says. 

Stephens declined to give the amount of the total investment except to say it is a multimillion- dollar transaction. He also declined to give the size of the extruder or throughput. In a news release, privately owned D&W Fine Pack described it as the largest of its kind in the U.S. 

MRS technology was unveiled in the U.S. at the 2009 NPE show. MRS stands for Multi-Rotation System. It is based on a conventional single-screw extruder but is equipped with a multiple screw section for optimum devolatilization.  

The polymer melt is delivered into a large single-screw drum. The drum contains eight small extruder barrels, parallel to the main screw axis. Installed in these small extruder barrels are the eight screws, which are driven by a ring gear in the main barrel to rotate in the opposite direction to the main screw while they rotate around the screw axis.  

Gneuss says the surface area of the steel parts in contact with the melt is exchanged at a rate of more than 25 times greater than with a co-rotating twin screw extruder. Due to the opposite rotation direction and high speed of the satellite screws, the polymer surface area is increased by a factor of 100 compared to a single-screw extruder and a factor of 40 compared to a twin-screw extruder.  

Gneuss builds MRS extruders in several sizes ranging from 35mm to 200mm with throughputs ranging from 80 pounds per hour to 4,500 pounds per hour. 

The new line at D&W Fine Pack’s Fort Wayne facility uses a Gneuss extruder and melt filtration system. Other parts of the line are from Davis-Standard, which supplied most of the seven other extrusion lines in the plant. That includes the controls and interface, which gives the new line a familiar look for operators.  

All of the PET sheet D&W produces is used internally for its wide range of food packaging. However, Stephens thinks that the new line will eventually enable the company to sell recycled-content sheet to others. 

There is a possibility that the new line could be duplicated in other D&W Fine Pack plants. “I hope so, but I think we will wait and see how it performs,” Stephens says. “We expect this is going to be wildly successful. We have done our due diligence. 

“A big part of that is around the economics of PET and the supply of post-consumer flake,” Stephens says. “The availability of post-consumer flake is going to have a large impact on how fast we can duplicate this technology or invest in a different technology that can get us to a similar place. We are very bullish on this, but we are not married to it.” 

Stephens says D&W Fine Pack tries to buy post-consumer and post-industrial material domestically but will look offshore when necessary.  

Stephens says another benefit of the Gneuss MRS technology is that it can process polypropylene, polystyrene or other packaging materials in addition to PET. “When we invest in this technology, we want to invest in something that is flexible just in case pressures in the marketplace change and we need to shift without making another major investment,” Stephens says. 

The company has about 30 extrusion lines using traditional extruders with crystallizer dryers. “There are other options we can do there to kind of enable the post-consumer flake,” he says. “It may not be the MRS technology, but certainly there are others that we can consider as well.” 

D&W Fine Pack is headquartered in Wood Dale, Illinois. 

Ron Shinn, editor

[email protected]


D&W Fine Pack LLC, 877-423-3037, www.dwfinepack.com 

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.