Eddystone company that recycles old glass into rocks plans a $24 million xpansion
The Eddystone company, which last year doubled its capacity to recycle old glass bottles and jars into lightweight building material that resembles rock, plans to dramatically expand its output again this year with new money from Wall Street investors.
Aero announced Tuesday that Valterra Partners LLC, a New York‐based private equity firm, closed on a $24 million investment that will allow Aero to add a third production line to its Delaware County plant, located in the former Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone.
The investment will also fund Aero’s plans to open a plant in New England and a plant in a southeastern state in 2020, said Archie Filshill, chief executive and co-founder of AeroAggregates. He said the company is still negotiating for new manufacturing sites, and declined to identify potential locations.
Altogether, the three new production lines will amount to a 150% increase in AeroAggregate’s current capacity. Each kiln can process about 32,000 tons of mixed glass a year, the equivalent of about 140 million disposable beer bottles.
Using European technology and German kilns, AeroAggregates manufactures a product called foamed-glass aggregate (FGA) from mixed glass that otherwise might be sent to a landfill. Its pumice-like product tips the scale at about 15% of the weight of rock mined from a quarry, and appeals to contractors who need lightweight material to fill wharves, bridge abutments and foundations with minimal compression of the underlying soil. The material is now approved for road projects by 14 state transportation departments.
“When we started this, we had a growth plan in place, which was to get the Eddystone plant up and running, get some market acceptance, and then over time start to build out other facilities to expand the footprint,” said Filshill. "The Valterra investment really allows us to realize that goal a lot faster.
Valterra’s investment represents a minority shareholding of AeroAggregates, and Scott Macintosh, a Valterra managing director, now occupies one of three board seats at the Eddystone company. The other board seats are held by Filshill and by Thomas McGrath, the president.
"With this investment, we hope to continue the company’s growth trajectory and to firmly establish Aero as the premier provider of FGA in North America,” Macintosh said in a statement.
AeroAggregates could provide an antidote for stressed municipal recycling programs that face a financial crisis after China in 2018 restricted imports of foreign recyclable materials, causing the prices of materials to plummet. The rising costs of running recycling programs has increased pressure on municipalities to cut costs, and one way they can save is to send mixed glass to a company such as AeroAggregates at a lower price than dumping it in a landfill, Filshill said.
Although road projects remain the largest market for the foam-glass aggregate, Filshill said building contractors that need to meet environmental goals are using the material as a coating in green roofs or in LEED-certified buildings.
He said the company is also working with a contractor to supply material for two Philadelphia Streets Department bridge projects this year, including a replacement of the Montgomery Avenue bridge over the Amtrak rail lines, and the 15th Street bridge rehabilitation, where the aggregate would be used to fill a disused rail tunnel near Callowhill Street.