Bottlemaker to shut down

MERRIMACK – One of the nation’s first plants to manufacture a certain type of plastic soft-drink bottles will close its doors, company officials announced Wednesday.

Amcor PET Packing, at 15 Continental Blvd., will cease production by the year’s end, forcing roughly 100 workers out of their jobs, officials said.

The plant – which produces plastic bottles for soft drinks, juices and sports drinks – had been in operation since 1978, officials said.

Amcor will provide severance pay, benefits and “career transition support” to displaced workers, according to the company.

“The Merrimack plant is slated for closure by the end of (the calendar year),” company President William Long said in a prepared statement.

“The exact timing is dependent on meeting our customers’ requirements, preferably through supply from one of our other plants.”

Amcor is an Australian company with business headquarters in Manchester, Mich. It operates two other bottling manufacturing plants in what it considers its Northeast region – in Montreal and Pennsylvania.

The plant is closing because of the large number of plastic bottle manufacturing plants in the Northeast, where production exceeds demand, said company spokeswoman Shelley Steele.

The “PET” in the company’s name stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic used for soft drink bottles.

The Merrimack plant was one of the nation’s first to manufacture PET, now a standard in the plastic packaging industry, officials said.

Amcor’s sales for the 2003 fiscal year totaled about $7 billion, officials said.