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Monday, March 24, 2008

Get Leaner and Greener by Recycling

Hey! I've met him at our Sonoco Recycling MRF!

Diverting recyclable material from the landfill converts waste streams to revenue streams, conference speaker says.

By Corinne Kator, Associate Editor -- Modern Materials Handling, 3/21/2008

Eliminating waste is the goal of lean manufacturing initiatives. It is also the goal of many environmental initiatives.

Myles Cohen, general manager at Sonoco Recycling and a speaker at this week’s Scope East conference in Philadelphia, says one way companies can literally eliminate waste is to divert materials from the landfill.

Much of what companies pay to throw away, he says, can actually earn them money. A waste audit at one Sonoco customer, he says, showed 65% of what the customer habitually sent to the landfill was actually recyclable. The company used to pay $230,000 in yearly landfill fees; today it earns $325,000 per year in recycling revenue—and keeps valuable materials out of the landfill.

Distribution centers, says Cohen, are notorious for throwing away materials that can be easily—and profitably—recycled. Old PET bands (the bands often used for securing loads to pallets), for example, can be worth several hundred dollars a ton, he says.

And while the policy at many DCs is to recycle used cardboard and stretch film, he says, that policy is too often ignored. Cohen recently conducted a waste audit at a DC with a program for recycling stretch film: “Every trash can had stretch wrap in it,” he says.

If you’re serious about reducing waste and you’re already recycling cardboard and plastic, watch for programs that allow you to recycle less obvious materials. As commodity prices rise and recycling technology improves, Cohen says, more and more materials are becoming worth the effort it takes to recycle them.

For example, some paper mills have developed methods for burning off plastic coatings and now accept polycoated paper for recycling. And Sonoco is developing programs for converting previously non-recyclable materials into useful items, such as fuel pellets and pallet blocks.

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