If it was easy, it would already be done
With increasing volumes of plastic film used in consumer and commercial packaging, the quantity of film landfill bound is astonishing. Industry pioneers are called upon to forge the plastic film frontier and craft new systems grounded in economics. Reduced landfill tipping costs coupled with recycling rebates are at the foundation of necessary infrastructure development.
Plastic film is a valuable commodity with recycling rebates often matching or exceeding OCC (old corrugated cardboard). Large commercial generators source-separate plastic film and sell the standard sized bales weighing 700 - 1000 pounds in the commodities market. Thus, plastic film is a strong contributor to their recycling profit centers.
In 2011 Ei Pioneers embarked on a commercial plastic film recycling journey targeted at moderate generators where standard size bale assembly was not practical. Development of a city-wide plastic film recycling template was the intended destination.
In simplistic terms, the city-wide template pilot plan was 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 manufacturer.
HMSHost Milk Jug Recycling
A precursor to the plastic film recycling template was a successful milk jug recycling program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world. Thanks to Ei Pioneer HMSHost's perseverance, the Starbucks milk jug recycling program established mini baler best practices. The ZWA Blog post, Milk Jugs Recycled at Atlanta Airport, announces the program launch. Note the Atlanta Airport is the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot.
Concord Mills Plastic Film Recycling
In August 2012 CM launched their successful plastic film recycling program using a mini baler. The film rebates, coupled with reduced landfill tipping fees, covered the baler and labor cost and improved the bottom line. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announces the mall plastic film recycling program.
Fresh Point Plastic Film Recycling
FreshPoint (FP), the nation's largest produce distributor, stepped forward as the lead Pilot Pioneer for the city-wide plastic film recycling template. A first action step was installing a mini baler at the FP Atlanta distribution center to bale the film generated in their operations.
In alignment with the CM shopping mall template, FP associates produced small plastic film bales that were collected by a hauler for consolidation into standard size bales.
The Ei Plastic Film Recovery Pilot @ FreshPoint video gives an overview of the pilot along with new practices created for contaminant-free film collection.
Georgia World Congress Center Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template
When the Georgia Dome | Georgia World Congress Center, SFCI Event Venue Pilot, joined the Pioneer Team, the pilot template expanded beyond plastic film to encompass common recyclable materials: aluminum, mixed paper and PET. The goal was to create an on-site mini MRF at the GA Dome | GWCC.
Thus, the plastic film recycling template expanded to the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT). The website page details the game plan and lists blog articles that chronicle the work-in-progress. The Ei FB album, Source-Separated Materials Recycling: building a city-wide network, chronicles the template creation process.
Due to unforeseen circumstances ranging from promotions to long-term illness to business model shifts to internal corporate politics, the S-SMRT was put on hold in early 2015. The foundation is built and ready for a new life at the perfect time!
In early 2016 Ei Pioneer Matt Hupp, Keter Environmental Services COO & former Simon Director of Waste & Recycling, committed to working with the Ei Team on plastic film recycling pilots at their Atlanta managed malls. Discussions are underway to craft the pilot team and return to action mode.
Ei Plastic Film Recycling Documentation:
The comprehensive Ei FB album, Ei Plastic Film Recycling, chronicles the plastic film recycling work in a pictorial format.
The following Zero Waste in ACTION Blog articles document the action steps taken, challenges faced, lessons learned and successes achieved:
HMSHost Milk Jug Recycling:
- Milk Jugs Recycled at Atlanta Airport, 04/08/12 - introduces the pilot and details program logistics.
Concord Mills Pilot:
- Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives, 06/18/11 - gives an overview of the monumental day when Ei introduces Matt Hupp (Simon Malls) to Louis Herrera (Hilex Poly); thus, the plastic film recycling journey begins!
- Getting a Handle on Plastic Film Recycling, 07/07/11 - chronicles the Ei | Simon tour of the Hilex Poly plastic film recycling plant.
- Fertile Charlotte Grounds, 10/28/11 - documents Ei's first Charlotte visit including tours of Concord Mills and the Charlotte Airport.
- 2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION, 01/15/12 - gives an overview of the Charlotte visit with Matt & Louis.
- ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, 08/26/12 - announces the plastic film recycling pilot launch.
- Bring the Possible out of Impossible, 03/31/13 - chronicles the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours featuring the Concord Mills plastic film recycling template.
GWCC, evolution to the Source-Separated Materials Materials Recycling Template;
- If it was easy, it would already be done, 09/29/13 - introduces the pilot & details challenges.
- Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier, 01/09/14 - gives Ei plastic film history along with a pilot update.
- Sustainability in ACTION at the Georgia Dome, 08/18/14 - provides a template update including the opening pre-season Falcons game fact finding mission.
- Total Materials Management Approach,12/09/14 - introduces the approach along with an in-depth S-SMRT logistics update.
- Remember: If it was easy, it would already be done! , 03/03/15- gives a S-SMRT update and documents the first source separated materials bales from the Ga Dome delivered to the Atlanta Penitentiary - the S-SMRT recycling center, for re-baling into standard-sized bales.