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Macon mayor withdraws support for Brightmark plastics recycling plant

"We cannot ignore the long-term safety concerns of this unproven process that have been raised in the last several weeks," said Miller.

MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller has officially withdrawn his support for Brightmark to move to Macon. Now, he’s encouraging the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority to do the same.

Last spring, Brightmark proposed building the world's largest plastics recycling plant in Macon. The company said they hoped to build a 5-million-square-foot plant that would cost an estimated $680 million.

In a letter addressed to Robby Fountain, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, Miller wrote, “we cannot ignore the long-term safety concerns of this unproven process that have been raised in the last several weeks.”

Over the last month, the Industrial Authority has discussed signing off on $500 million in revenue bonds for Brightmark to start the project in 2023.

The mayor's decision is a win for environmental advocacy groups and concerned citizens who raised questions about the possible pollution the plant could emit. The Georgia Water Coalition put Brightmark on their Dirty Dozen list for 2021, saying the proposed recycling plant poses a serious threat to the state's water.

"I think Macon-Bibb dodged a bullet," said Jessica Wahl with Environment Georgia.

"If it costs you more energy, more waste, more pollution to get there, it's simply not worth it for us," Miller said.

Brightmark’s patented, closed loop technology heats plastics until it's vaporized into liquids. Then, the company says it condenses the plastic to turn into other plastics, wax, and even diesel fuel.

“Plastic-to-fuel is kind of untested. We certainly don’t want to do something that would adversely affect our environment here in Macon-Bibb County, our clean air in Macon-Bibb County, and certainly our waters here in Macon-Bibb County," said Miller.

Brightmark CEO Bob Powell says their technology “solves problems, not creates them.”

"We do not incinerate. In fact, our process won't work if it is incinerated," Powell said. "I won't incinerate plastics because I think it's a bad environmental answer."

Powell claimed the plant would have minimal emissions similar to a medium -sized hospital.

Wahl says the plant shouldn't be built in Macon, or anywhere for that matter.

"No community deserves to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, and no company should prop up untested technology that endangers public health," Wahl said. 

This plant in Macon would have been Brightmark's second facility of its kind. The first and only other plant is in Ashley, Indiana.

According to the company's EPA report, the company didn't get any violations until quarter 13, which began in July of this year.

The plant's compliance on its last inspection report was marked "undetermined."

Josh Singer with the EPA says there were violations this year relating to water effluent, wastewater coming from the plant.

13WMAZ reached out to Brightmark for comment about the mayor's decision. They did not respond.

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