For most corporate entities, single-stream recycling is the only recycling option available for materials and by-products generated during operations. Although a valuable commodity, plastic film is a contaminant in single-stream recycling. The film wraps around machinery, often causing costly sorting delays.
Plastic film recycling among moderate generators is a frontier where infrastructure must be developed, within the company and the community. Many moderate generators use a sixty inch downstroke baler for their corrugated cardboard baling. When using the large baler for plastic film, the company must accumulate 750 plus pounds of plastic film for one bale. The logistics and space requirements to aggregate the film is not practical for most smaller producers.
|Ei Team poses in front of a|
GWCC plastic film filled container
Several years ago GWCCA director of sustainability Tim Trefzer experimented with baling plastic film generated at the complex. After one large bale, Tim understood the benefits did not justify the required logistics.
Small balers play a vital role in aggregating plastic film for collection where moderate amounts are generated. Depending on the type of plastic, small balers produce easy-to-manage 100 to 200 pound bales.
|milk jugs in baler|
@ ATL Airport
Next on the agenda was tackling plastic film recycling via internal company programs using on-site small balers. In 2011 Simon Property Group - the nation's largest mall and commercial real estate owner - joined the Ei Partner Program to develop zero waste practices at their malls, with a focus on plastic film and food waste. Synchronistic with Ei and Simon joining forces, the garment industry shifted from bulk retail packaging to individual packages in clear plastic film. RESULT: increased landfill tipping fees from the tremendous increase in tenant-produced plastic film.
In August 2012 Concord Mills, the SFCI Mall Pilot, launched their successful plastic film recycling program using an Orwak mini baler. The film rebates, coupled with reduced landfill tipping fees, cover the baler and labor cost and improve the bottom line. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announces the mall plastic film recycling program.
|bagged plastic film ready for|
baling @ Concord Mills
In simple terms, the city-wide game plan is to recruit 10 - 12 industry pioneers who generate a moderate amount of plastic film in their operations. Using a small baler, the pioneers collect and bale plastic film on-site for periodic collection. A local hauler collects and delivers the small bales to a warehouse. The small bales are re-baled into standard size larger bales and stored in an empty tractor trailer. Once full, the plastic film is sold by the tractor trailer load as a raw material to a plastic bag manufacturer. Atlanta serves as the pilot city for the plastic film recycling template.
The ZWA Blog post, If it was easy, it would already be done, announces the city-wide template along with listing the inherent challenges within the groundbreaking program.
|First meeting @ FreshPoint|
introducing the pilot
FreshPoint of Atlanta is the template founding pioneer. Owned by Sysco, FreshPoint is the nation's largest produce distributor with a strong sustainability commitment. As an early ZWZ Participant, FreshPoint has strong sustainability practices in-place and is eager to forge new recycling frontiers.
|Delivery of the Orwak baler|
for the trial period
While going through the collected plastic film, the team realized there was a significant amount of colored film that required a separate bale to maintain maximum material value. A fun surprise was the disposable plastic aprons used in FreshPoint's produce cut shop were recyclable in the colored bales.
Shrink wrap securing produce boxes on pallets for customer delivery is one of FreshPoint's largest plastic film types generated. Prior to the pilot, the delivery labels were placed on the pallet after secured in shrink wrap. The labels are contamination for plastic film recycling. New procedures call for placing labels on the boxes prior to securing them with the shrink wrap. A simple procedure shift eliminated contamination.
|Stuart Herman w/ Orwak|
removing first plastic film bale
For the template pilot, Ei intends to invite 10-12 pioneers to join the plastic film recycling team. The GWCCA, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Atlanta Airport were invited and are exploring the feasibility of invitation acceptance. On November 6, Tim Trefzer with the GWCC and Liza Milagro, Atlanta Airport senior sustainability planner, visited FreshPoint's distribution center to understand the ease of collecting and baling plastic film in an industrial setting. In late December Ei founder Holly Elmore and Lorraine White of M-Pass met with Cindy Jackson, GA Tech waste & recycling director, and her team to introduce the plastic film recycling template pilot.
In addition to inviting pioneers, a next pilot step is to identify a recycling center location where the mini bales are re-baled into standard sized bales and stored in a tractor trailer until sold. In December Holly and Lorraine met at the U.S. Penitentiary - Atlanta with the local UNICOR folks to determine if synergies aligned to provide the recycling center facility and labor. As a second step in the evaluation process, Holly met with federal UNICOR associates in Washington D.C. later in the month.
|Lorraine White with local|
UNICOR folks @ ATL Penitentiary
Determining the types of plastic film produced among the various generators in a metro area is another action point within the template development. The goal is to invite a broad cross section of generators - distribution centers, hotels, airport, event | convention facilities, malls - to understand first-hand the types and quantities of plastic film produced in an urban district. Working with Ei Partner Hilex Poly, an industry leading manufacturer of plastic bag and film products, the pilot team will balance the labor required to separate plastic film type versus the material value. The intent is for Hilex Poly to purchase the plastic film by the tractor trailer load as a raw material for their manufacturing process.
Documentation is integral in template development, especially when the long-term intentions are to duplicate the program across the nation and expand source-separated material collection beyond plastic film to the components in single-stream recycling. The Ei FB album, Plastic Film Recycling: building a city-wide network, published as a comprehensive pictorial recap of the action to date in the city-wide plastic film recycling template pilot. The album is structured so it will accumulate the pictorial story as the template is built.
|Ei Chair Scott Seydel|
filming Preston Fletcher w/ FP
ACTION is underway in this monumental template development. By creating new in-house practices and community infrastructure, the city-wide plastic film recycling template is staged to evolve corporate recycling options beyond single-stream. The pioneers are gathering to forge pathways into the a new recycling frontier. Stay tuned!!!