Macon residents share concerns about plastics recycling facility

Some residents are concerned about what Brightmark plans to produce, and the environmental impact it could have on the city.
Walden road
Brightmark planned to build their plastics recycling plant on Walden road in South Macon.

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)— In June, Brightmark announced plans to bring the world’s largest advanced plastics recycling and renewal facility to Walden Road in Macon.

Some residents are concerned about what Brightmark plans to produce, and the environmental impact it could have on the city.

Jill Neimark, a science journalist living in Macon, opposes pyrolysis. It’s Brightmark’s process of making fuel out of plastic. She’s also concerned Macon’s air and water quality will be effected by what the plant produces, and how it could change Macon’s legacy.

“A new kind of tourist attraction, the biggest waste dump around carrying around all this junk plastic and turning it into diesel. And that will be our legacy, a blackmark. Not a Brightmark, a blackmark on Macon,” she said.

Brightmark CEO Bob Powell, says Brightmark hopes to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. According to a research article called “Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made” only 9 percent of plastics made since the 1950’s have been recycled. Powell says they accept all plastics and turn them into low Sulphur diesel, additives to make gasoline and jet fuel, and more plastic.

“What our ultimate goal at Brightmark is to do is to create a circular economy,” he said. “What we take out of the environment, we use and reuse, and continuously create that circle of reuse.”

Dr. Lindsay Holliday is a Macon resident too. He’s also concerned about Brightmark coming to Macon. Holliday says he would love to have clean plastic recycling in the area, but feels Brightmark has no proof or guarantees they’ll do what they say they’re going to do.

“I want a warranty that they’re actually going to do what they say they’re going to do,” he said. “And if they don’t I want the public to be able to hold them accountable.”

Powell says it’s extremely important to Brightmark that their environmental footprint is something the community feels good about.

According to a study commissioned by the company, its carbon emissions are 39 percent better than if they sourced it from oil and gas wells in the ground. He says the emissions the plant would create would be similar to a medium sized hospital in Macon-Bibb County.

“If we’re true to our mission at Brightmark and I hope we are. What we seek to do is have the lowest environmental impact possible,” he said.

Dr. Holliday says residents want to see plastics and garbage recycled, but he wants to ensure Brightmark won’t pollute Macon.

“We do not have a guarantee that they won’t pollute us, we’re just looking for a guarantee. We want this kind of process, we want to recycle, we don’t want to be poisoned,” he said.

Powell hopes to start construction next year. It will take two to three years to finish building though.

Item 14 on next Monday’s Planning and Zoning agenda lists a plastics renewal facility for a conditional use. The address listed is where Brightmark plans to build their facility. The agenda says it’s deferred by staff. We reached out to Planning and Zoning to find out why that is, but have not heard back yet.

Categories: Bibb County, Business, Featured, Health, Local News, WMGT

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