No Such Thing As Non-Recyclable

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Courtesy of Northstar Recycling

From utilizing recyclable materials to finding productive uses for waste, sustainability efforts have come a long way in the manufacturing industry in recent years. However, some materials still prove to be very difficult to recycle. When a major Packaging Manufacturer found themselves with an abundance of waste material and no clear solution, they called on Northstar Recycling for help.

Northstar Recycling is a fifth-generation family-run company headquartered in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They specialize in hard-to-recycle items and create customized programs for companies to achieve Zero Landfill status and find the most profitable and sustainable output from their waste streams.

The Problem: An “Unrecyclable” Material

Before teaming up with Northstar Recycling, the Packaging Manufacturer was sending 98% of their waste to a landfill and racking up more than $1 million a year in disposal costs. The major factor was a multi-layered packaging film for coffee bags that had been deemed unrecyclable by many of the recycling experts they’d presented their problem to in the past.

It wasn’t until John Trovato, Recycling and Landfill Diversion Specialist at Northstar Recycling, was on the case that things began to look up.

“We had to turn over a lot of rocks,” Mr. Trovato says. “With no potential end user in the picture, they were sending 150 tons a month of clean, usable material to a landfill. We were determined to find a solution.”

After much investigative legwork, Mr. Trovato was able to find a company that was using something similar to the stubborn coffee film to make their own product.

The Northstar Recycling Solution

From there, Northstar Recycling developed a customized program that diverted the Packaging Manufacturer’s waste that was previously going to a landfill to a new end user who could use the material in their own manufacturing process.
Northstar Recycling handled every step of the operation, from touring the plants, mapping out all the details with the decision makers, arranging the distribution and delivery schedules and creating the financial framework and payment arrangements.

Northstar Recycling worked closely with the Packaging Manufacturer’s staff, across multiple locations, to develop internal sustainability programs and get them on board with the new procedures and processes. Northstar Recycling was also able to consolidate and streamline the recycling program from two facilities through one system with a single point of contact. This method maximizes efficiency and profitability while making it more convenient and manageable.

Big Results

Using the customized program developed by Northstar Recycling, the Packaging Manufacturer was recycling 90% of their production waste within the first year. That translates into $1 million a year in cost savings. In addition, the Packaging Manufacturer now generates over $120,000 a year in recycling rebates.

“We don’t believe in the word ‘non-recyclable’,” says Noah Goodman, President of Northstar Recycling. “So many companies and manufacturers have tunnel vision in terms of what a recyclable item looks like. We are always up for a challenge. Every one of our recycling experts at Northstar Recycling is resourceful, open-minded and willing to put in the time and effort it takes to find the right solution for the right company.”

A Sustainable Future And Healthy Growth

Northstar Recycling monitors the success of the Packaging Manufacturer’s program with ongoing training, on-site consultations and process analysis across all locations. Currently, the Packaging Manufacturer’s headquarters has achieved Zero Landfill status with other facilities not far behind.

They have also continued to find new markets for the Packaging Manufacturer’s waste product and gone through their client list to reach out to other manufacturers who use the same film material and help them recycle as well.

Many other clients — including a large national Coffee Manufacturer — have started to work with Northstar Recycling on similar customized recycling programs of their own. It’s a win-win for businesses and the environment. And it shows that the determination and innovation go a long way in reaching sustainability goals.

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