Troy University recycling research center connects college to community

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Troy University will use a $3.2 million grant to establish a center for the research of polymer recycling, providing a connection between the university and KW Plastics.

Troy received the grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the largest ever received by the University within the science disciplines, to establish the Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences, focusing on research in the areas of polymers and polymer recycling.

The three-year grant will enable the University to purchase lab research equipment, provide scholarships for students and provide support for research and the management of the center, which will be a part of Troy’s School of Science and Technology. The University will convert existing classroom space to laboratory space to accommodate the research efforts.

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“We are very excited, and we hope that this is only the beginning,” said Dr. Govind Menon, director of Troy’s School of Science and Technology. “It is absolutely necessary for us to connect with industry. It is one thing to reside entirely within academia and do our own work, but it is another thing entirely to create very applicable technologies.”

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Walter Givhan, senior vice chancellor for advancement and economic development, called the research center a “win-win” for the university and the community.

“The project will connect the faculty, students, and resources of Troy University with local and regional industries, such as KW Plastics, so that we can advance together as partners. It will fuel economic development through a productive partnership that gives our faculty and students hands-on experience with applied research in this exciting field,” Givhan said. “We are very grateful to Senator Shelby for the visionary leadership and strong support that have made this important project possible. “

Stephanie Baker, Director of Market Development for KW Plastics, said the timing of the grant couldn’t be better.

“Our industry is growing and, while we continue to explore new opportunities to boost the recycling rate, we also continue to find challenges,” Baker said. “Many of these challenges include infrastructure, technology in the collection and processing of materials and recyclability issues with packaging and product design.”

Headquartered in Troy, KW is the world’s largest plastics recycler and locally employs over 300 men and women whose jobs are directly tied to the reprocessing of plastics for recycling and an additional 100 employees through KW Containers, the company’s container manufacturing operation.

“The plastics recycling industry is poised for major growth,” Baker said. “There have never been more domestic markets for more types of plastics and a larger demand from end markets. We expect the Center for Materials and Manufacturing Science will allow us, not only as a local company but also our industry, the unique opportunity for research and development, commercialization of technology and a qualified and experienced pool of potential employees ready to take on the demands of the recycling and polymer industries.”

Marcus Paramore, president of the Troy City Council, said the center is not only beneficial to the University, but also to the city and the surrounding area.

“The City of Troy has always enjoyed a wonderful town-gown relationship with Troy University,” said Marcus Paramore, President of the Troy City Council. “Bringing this center here to the University will help produce job-ready graduates. When they are ready to go to work, we want to ensure that we have job opportunities here for them. In the last 18 months, the City of Troy and Pike County has brought in more than 600 new jobs into this area. Having qualified individuals to go to work in those jobs is key to us. If they stay here and are gainfully employed here, then that is what helps our community grow.”

An advisory board comprising members from the plastics industry, recycling industry, trade organizations, municipalities, the Center and other agencies will be formed to help manage, direct and oversee activities.

“I can think of no better university to receive this grant,” said former Congressman Terry Everett, who serves on the School of Sciences and Technology Advisory Council. “Troy University is a great steward of the resources it receives, and I know the University will put this grant to good use. I’m especially pleased with the way Troy University is pursuing new initiatives in science and technology that will advance our understanding and serve our development in the state, region, and country. I’m proud of what Senator Shelby and our Congressional delegation has done to support this initiative.”