The Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center Inc. (RMC) announces the formation of a new business partnership to collect and recycle plastic well pad liners from gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale region.

The benefits include reclaiming millions of pounds of marketable plastic, slowing the consumption of valuable landfill space, and reducing truck traffic around drill sites.

“This is a first-of-its-kind venture that will produce major and dramatic benefits for Pennsylvania in addition to new jobs and growth for the companies directly,” RMC executive director Robert Bylone Jr. says.

The partners in the venture are WellSpring Environmental Services, LLC, headquartered in Orwigsburg, and Ultra-Poly Corporation, based in Portland, Pa.

Both companies are members of the RMC’s Center of Excellence, a network of recycled materials processors and end users of recycled materials.

“The new recycling venture with WellSpring and Ultra-Poly is expected to take at least 20 million pounds a year of plastic well pad liner material out of the waste stream and turn it into useful new products,” Bylone says.

An estimated 100 million pounds of high-density plastic were used for well pad liners by drillers in the Marcellus Shale region in 2011. Currently, most of that material is disposed of in landfills when it needs to be replaced or removed.

Ultra-Poly, one of the largest recyclers of polyethylene and polypropylene plastic in North America, has designed a proprietary process for processing the liner material, and has built a recycling plant specifically for that purpose in a building leased from the Berwick Industrial Development Authority.

“We are supplying the recycled plastic to several existing customers, including Axion International, which turns the material into composite railroad ties and other composite building components,” says David LaFiura, vice president of Ultra-Poly. “The market is potentially huge, we have developed an environmentally responsible method, we are the only company doing this, and we are in position to recycle as much of the liner material as we can get.”

In tandem with that, WellSpring has developed special equipment for separating well pad liners on site so the pieces from one well site can be trucked away for recycling in a single trailer load. In the past, excavators were used to rip well pad liners into large sections, and then it typically took eight to 10 trips with roll-off containers to take the sections from a single site to a landfill for disposal.

It’s estimated that 20,000 pounds of liner material is used per drilling site. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued 3,510 Marcellus Shale well permits in 2011, and another 1,243 through mid-May of this year.

“We can do liner removal more efficiently, at less cost, while cutting down truck traffic, protecting the environment, and generating commercially reusable material,” Kreitzer says.

DEP already has issued permits to the two companies for the process.

WellSpring and Ultra-Poly have invested roughly a combined $4 million in research and development up to this point.

LaFiura says that the partnership will generate 80 or more new jobs for Ultra-Poly, provide added job security for another 180 existing company jobs, and add an estimated $1 million a year to state and local tax revenues. Kreitzer indicates that WellSpring would be adding another dozen employees and expanding its truck fleet.