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SKC goes green
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Several new changes have taken place at the SKC Inc. plant in Covington including the production of an environmentally friendly bio-degradable film, a large reduction in plant water usage and the naming of a new chief technology officer.

Former Plant Manager Jeff Hudspeth was appointed to the position of chief technology officer of SKC Inc. at the beginning of the year. Prior to his promotion, Hudspeth had served as plant manager since 2002. As CTO, Hudspeth said he will focus on improving manufacturing technology. Hudspeth will continue to report to SKC Inc. President and CEO Hojo Kim.

Taking Hudspeth's place as plant manager is Tom Gray. Gray joined SKC in 1998 as the national sales director.

As part of SKC's new corporate strategy, the company has undertaken several environmentally friendly initiatives. Some of those initiatives include the internal recycling of used film, the installation of energy efficient lighting, electric motors and electric heaters, internal water recycling efforts and an energy shift from oil to natural gas.

"We wanted to make sure that people understood that we're very much aware of the impact that we have," Hudspeth said. "Our energy and water consumption tie in. We want to be a responsible community corporation and to do our part as well."

According to Hudspeth, since 2004 SKC has reduced its baseline water consumption by 77 percent. As of November 2007, SKC was the city of Covington's second largest water user.

"There's been some very major concern about water," Hudspeth said. "We've done a lot of things to cut back our consumption. It's important that people understand that industry is working to be a good steward."

While SKC still uses a good deal of water, Hudspeth said much of the water the company uses is recycled internally for additional manufacturing usage.

SKC also maintains more than 200 acres of natural woodlands on its Covington campus with the purpose of offsetting the facility's carbon dioxide output. The Covington facility employs 260 people today.

As part of SKC's move towards more environmentally manufacturing processes, the company recently introduced a new film produced from biodegradable corn starch. The polylactic acid film called Skywel can be used not only in the packaging materials used for food products but also for envelope windows, labels and tapes.

According to information made available by SKC, Skywel film takes six to 10 weeks to decompose in a compost heap, two to four months to decompose in a landfill and two to three years to decompose in water and soil.

Hudspeth said the price of Skywel film is competitive with that of standard polyester film on account of the increase in the cost of fossil fuels used in the polyester film manufacturing process. Hudspeth said the development process for Skywel film took between three and four years.

Currently Skywel film is used in the packaging of Frito-Lay barbecue flavored chips and chili cheese flavored chips Hudspeth said. A transition to biodegradable film will be driven by consumer demands for environmentally friendly products Hudspeth said.

"If there's a demand for that, we want to be in a position to fill that," Hudspeth said. "We are the intermediary and [the corporate buyers of SKC film] do the conversion. Based on their marketing strategy, they'll set the demand for the film."

So far at least four companies have asked for samples of the Skywel film.

"A lot of the big packaging companies are very interested in [Skywel]," Hudspeth said. "There's really a very large interest both in North America and South America and Europe."