Waste management creates profit

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Courtesy of RUNI A/S

Large US furniture chain turns over USD 3 million through recycling of packaging.

In 2007, the US furniture chain Rooms To Go turned over USD 1.75 billion worth of furniture – products packaged using vast amounts of cardboard, wood, plastic and EPS. But already in 1991 the chain introduced a recycling programme that has transformed waste into a profitable business which in 2007 alone earned Rooms To Go almost USD 3 million. This amount is roughly equivalent to their total investment in the programme over the last 16 years.

Waste handling takes place in the chain’s five large distribution centres. Here return waste is received from the chain’s distribution, its retail outlets and its direct customer deliveries. In 2005, the chain reorganised the whole of its waste sorting and handling process to optimise the flow of return materials which is sorted into wood, cardboard, plastic and EPS on a picking line.

The EPS waste falls through a chute and is taken by conveyor up to a RUNI Heavy Duty Pre-crusher and then blown into a silo which automatically feeds two RUNI SK370 Screw Compactors which work without problem for up to 20 hours a day. There has only been few operational stoppage – and this was a result of the machines being fed the wrong material. The RUNI Silo System has been installed at three of Room To Go’s distribution centres.

“We chose the RUNI Silo System because we can compress EPS in a continuous work process without having someone standing around feeding the compactor. This seemed to be the best solution from a production standpoint. And it works well within the overall process,” explains Nick MacNichol, Sr. Industrial Engineer from Rooms To Go’s headquarters located in the largest and newest of their distribution centres in Lakeland, Florida – a juggernaut of 160,000 m2.

“There are two reasons for compressing EPS. Firstly, uncompressed EPS takes up a lot of space and was filling up our waste containers. By compressing, we save on waste costs. Secondly, we can sell compressed EPS for recycling and thereby keep it away from landfill. From the very beginning, the main purpose of our waste programme was to show environmental responsibility and we are constantly trying to improve the process,” says Nick MacNichol and adds that they processed 861 tons of EPS in 2007.

Since the programme’s inception, the chain has saved 96,000 tons of waste from landfill. This waste has instead been recycled. 7,000 tons were plastic and EPS which are not biodegradable. Overall, Rooms To Go currently recycles 96 % of all EPS and cardboard and 87 % of all wood and plastic.

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