Lauderdale County, Miss. Plastic pollution has been a growing problem throughout the world and many companies have been working to combat that problem by making bioplastic. One company working to change the face of bioplastics is locating the first facility of its kind in Meridian. Solaplast, which is a division of Algix, makes plastic out of algae and CEO Mike Van Drunen says choosing Meridian was a no brainer.
"We've heard often that location, location, location is everything," Van Drunen said. "Meridian just happens to be right in the center of the aquaculture industry in the Southeast. From this facility in Meridian, within 100 miles, we can reach pretty much any aquaculture industry within the Southeast."
The facility which is expected to bring many jobs to East Mississippi and West Alabama, will produce millions of pounds of bioplastic resin, which will then be shipped to factories to be used in their products. Van Drunen says not only will this facility be an economic boost for the region, but it will provide much needed jobs.
"In terms of jobs, we're estimating about 100 new hires here in Meridian," Van Drunen said. "This facility will be able to produce about 200 million pounds annually. This will all be done over a three shift operation."
So why use algae? Chief Technical Officer Ryan Hunt says it's because of its advantages.
"One advantage of algae is not only its ability to treat waste water, but it's also not a food product," Hunt said. "It doesn't compete with the food stream, so we can grow algae at very high growth rates on non arable land. We can produce a feed stock that can be economical, it can be high in protein and can be turned into a variety of different products for the commercial sector."
Solaplast says they will obtain their algae from lakes and rivers, aquaculture and waste water systems. The company will also be importing roughly 50 million pounds of algae from their Algix partner in Jamaica, with all the algae eventually ending up right in the heart of the aquaculture industry, that being Meridian.
Algix's Solaplast facility is already an 8.5 million dollar corporate investment, but that investment is expected to grow to about 40 million. The 100 jobs are expected to be added incrementally over the next three years.