SKC, in­dus­trial leader in en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

Tucked away out of sight on hun­dreds of acres off Ga. High­way 81, the Cov­ing­ton cam­pus of SKC Inc. is qui­etly blaz­ing a path in the de­vel­op­ment of al­ter­na­tive en­ergy tech­nol­ogy and bio-degrad­able pack­ag­ing.

SKC, a multi-na­tional cor­po­ra­tion, that un­til now pri­mar­ily man­u­fac­tured a variety of polyester film ma­te­ri­als, has man­u­fac­tured a poly­lac­tic acid film called Sky­wel. The film is corn-based and takes six to 10 weeks to de­com­pose in a com­post heap and two to four months to de­com­pose in a land­fill.

Since its re­lease sev­eral months ago, de­mand for Sky­wel film has more than dou­bled. Ac­cord­ing to SKC Inc. Pres­i­dent Ho Jo Kim, pro­duc­tion has in­creased from 20,000 pounds a month to be­tween 40,000 and 60,000 pounds a month. Kim said he ex­pects the com­pany to pro­duce 1

mil­lion pounds of the film next year. Sky­wel film is cur­rently used in the pack­ag­ing of Fri­toLay bar­be­cue-fla­vored and chili cheese-fla­vored corn chips.

In the last sev­eral months food prices have sharply in­creased around the world, partly as a re­sult of farm­ers plant­ing more corn to be used in the pro­duc­tion of ethanol and less of other sta­ple crops such as soy­beans. Not wish­ing to con­trib­ute to food short­ages, Jeff Hud­speth, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer of SKC Inc. said the com­pany is al­ready re­search­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of biodegrad­able film, this time based on plant waste.

“We think we have enough in­no­va­tion and good peo­ple to make it eco­nom­i­cally vi­able,” said Hud­speth of the com­pany’s plans for Sky­wel film.

Kim said it is SKC’s goal to be­come the “go-to” source for bio-degrad­able film in the near fu­ture and to be the pre­mier man­u­fac­turer in the emerg­ing mar­ket of bio-poly­mers that would make the film 100 per­cent bio-degrad­able.

SKC is also re­search­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties for film use in the so­lar en­ergy mar­ket and has be­gun dis­cus­sions with so­lar re­search com­pa­nies.

“We’d like to be a part of the ex­pand­ing and emerg­ing so­lar tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try,” Hud­speth said.

En­sconced in a shiny blue glass build­ing de­signed to model the shape of a film wheel on a sprawl­ing cam­pus that in­cludes 200 acres of greenspace, SKC’s Cov­ing­ton plant is largely au­to­mated. Tech­ni­cians who op­er­ate the com­plex ma­chines that stretch and pull the film to the de­sired thick­ness all wear spe­cial suits that keep out dust, which oth­er­wise would dam­age the sen­si­tive film.

SKC re­cently ac­com­plished the im­pres­sive feat of re­claim­ing 98 per­cent of the nat­u­ral re­sources used in its man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses.

“That’s world class,” Hud­speth said. “I don’t’ know any­one who has that rate.”

By re­duc­ing the amount of new resin that is used to pro­duce new film chips, SKC low­ers the amount of fos­sil fuel re­quired to pro­duce the plas­tic in its film-mak­ing process.

The leftover 2 per­cent to 1.5 per­cent of film pel­let waste is of­ten crushed and resold to other com­pa­nies who use it in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of prod­ucts like toy cars.

“We’re not re­ally putting any­thing back into the ground,” Hud­speth said.

The com­pany also re­claims 31 per­cent of the film it man­u­fac­tures. Rather than thrown away, un­used polyester film is col­lected and re­cy­cled to cre­ate new pel­lets Hud­speth said.

“We take all of that waste and cre­ate re­claim pel­lets,” Hud­speth said. “We want to re­duce the amount of new [film] chips.”

To be­come more en­ergy ef­fi­cient, the com­pany re­cently in­stalled en­ergy ef­fi­cient light­ing and mo­tion sen­sors to turn off un­nec­es­sary lights on its cam­pus in ad­di­tion to re­design­ing its chill wa­ter HVAC air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem to re­duce the plant’s elec­tric­ity re­quire­ments.

An in­ter­nal wa­ter re­cy­cling pro­gram has re­duced the com­pany’s base­line wa­ter con­sump­tion by 77 per­cent in the past four years. SKC has also changed its en­ergy fuel mix from oil to nat­u­ral gas to re­duce the com­pany’s car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

While on the path to­wards en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity, Hud­speth said SKC has faced a num­ber of pot­holes in­clud­ing high de­vel­op­ment costs and tech­ni­cal prob­lems with the chem­i­cal for­mula for the Sky­wel film. Still Hud­speth said the ben­e­fits far out­weigh the costs as far as the com­pany is con­cerned.

“SKC’s phi­los­o­phy rep­re­sents har­mony,” Hud­speth said. “[It’s] very, very im­por­tant to be pros­per­ous, but we need to do it in a har­mo­nious way with the com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Above. SKC Inc. Chief Tech­nol­ogy Of­fi­cer Jeff Hud­speth, left, with SKC Inc. Pres­i­dent and CEO Ho Jo Kim look down one of the mas­sive pro­duc­tion lines at the Cov­ing­ton Plant where com­postable PLA film and other en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly film prod­ucts are pro­duced. Be­low, Dr. David Si­mons with his fire truck that he calls “Mack,” which he re­cently pur­chased to store wa­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.