Washington-based recycling non-profit looks to build research center in Youngstown

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The environmentally responsible research center will be led by James Dignan, a former Chamber of Commerce president

(WKBN) – A non-profit group from Washington is looking for better ways to process recyclables and plans to build a research and development facility in Youngstown.

A familiar name is driving the project locally and the plan is to start construction this summer.

James Dignan was commander of the Air Reserve Station, then president of the Chamber of Commerce. Now, he’s leading the effort to build an R&D facility for the Center for Environmentally Responsible Materials Recycling (CERMR).

“How do we take end-of-life plastics and put it back into the circular economy and extract what’s usable and take those pieces and put it back out into the economy?” he said.

Dignan talked about the thermolyzer process of CHZ Technologies, which has offices in Austintown. It’s the process the R&D facility will use.

“You can take out the resins, you can take out the oils, you can have syngas which can be burned off in a generator and produce energy,” he said.

Dignan said he’s looking to partner with Youngstown State University to build the R&D facility near campus, possibly in the soon-to-be-opened Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center.

About $13-15 million is needed.

“There’s a grant application out right now that’s part of the Plastics Challenge with the Department of Energy, and Governor DeWine and President Tressel both signed letters of support,” Dignan said.

Gov. Mike DeWine Support Letter

The R&D facility will start with plastics but then move on to tires, telephone poles and railroad ties. It will even cover propellers from wind turbines that Dignan said are piling up in Europe. Through the thermolyzer process, each element of the blades can be extracted — if it’s carbon fibers, for example.

“Take those fibers out and put it back into the supply chain and maybe come back out on the other ends as a carbon fiber fender for a Lordstown Motors truck,” Dignan said.

The request from the Department of Energy is for a $13 million grant.

Dignan is also looking to get private money from the companies who make the products that need to be recycled, like Owens Corning, Dow Chemical, BF Goodrich and Goodyear.

At first, six to 10 jobs will be created.

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