A 2-year-old startup company here is joining the state’s expanding recycling industry and simultaneously helping to rebuild a former mill town belted by a dying business and a staggering railroad accident a decade ago.
The company, Recleim, has invested $40.6 million to convert a once-vacant cotton mill to a first-of-its-kind recovery facility in North America. The recycling plant that opened Friday is expected eventually to provide about 200 jobs to the Graniteville area.
Recycling has had a growing influence in the Palmetto State. An economic impact study released last year by the College of Charleston showed significant gains in recycling-linked jobs and business since 2006.
Between 2006 and 2014, recycling doubled its annual economic impact in South Carolina to $13 billion, up from $6.5 billion in 2006, or a 5 percent annual growth, according to the study.
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More than 520 recycling-related companies were located in South Carolina last year, breeding 22,500 attributable jobs, which paid an average salary of $40,203, the study found.
In addition, state and local governments reaped $329 million in taxes from recycling businesses in each of those years, the report stated.
Graniteville – headquarters to the sprawling former Graniteville Co. mill system – was socked decades ago by the U.S. textile industry’s collapse. The town is still recovering from a 2005 freight train derailment that spilled 11,500 gallons of chlorine into the air. Choking fumes killed nine people and brought Graniteville to a standstill.
“Graniteville, you deserve this,” Gov. Nikki Haley told a crowd gathered for the recycling plant’s formal opening. “This is a good quality company. Yet, while this is a big deal for Aiken County, and this is a big deal for South Carolina – this is a big deal for our country.”
Rep. Chris Corley, R-Aiken, a lifelong resident, said the plant opening reminded him of the Graniteville of his youth. “I can remember when this was hustling and bustling, and it hasn’t been like that much lately,” Corley said.
Recleim is a high-tech company operating a 110,000-square-foot plant that disassembles household appliances into components and recycles the metals. Plant officials said they can recover 95 percent of the components while the national standard is about 70 percent.
Recleim’s plant also recycles vending machines and heating-and-cooling systems – turning them into reusable plastic, aluminum, copper, steel and pellet foam.
That keeps waste away from landfills and other forms of environmental degradation, officials said. Recycling one refrigerator or freezer has the same environmental effect of taking two automobiles off the road for a year, officials said.
Recleim draws appliances from a 350-mile radius, as recycling becomes an expected norm locally and nationally, especially among milennials, said Douglas Huffer, president and general manager.