The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., organizer of NPE 2000, announced May 22 that it is sponsoring an improved program to recycle scrap from show exhibits. SPI chose North Chicago-based Maine Plastics Inc. to lead the program. Jordan Morgenstern, SPI vice president for trade shows, said Maine Plastics was chosen because it is based in Chicago, it is exhibiting at the show and it is an SPI member.
"The goal is to remove plastic scrap and byproduct and economically recycle it back to the industry," said David Kaplan, executive vice president for Maine Plastics.
Susie Harpham, president of Eco Educators Inc., a waste reduction and recycling consultancy helping to organize the project, said several parts of the program have been revamped since NPE 1997 to improve efficiency.
She said the survey for exhibitors was placed on the Internet so respondents could answer quickly and with more detail. The labels for scrap containers are easier to fill out to ensure that resins will not be contaminated. Harpham also said staff monitors will be more available to assist exhibitors.
"[In 1997] there was so much volume so quickly and the stickers were not as efficient as these," she said.
Kaplan said he hoped the labels will be easy to use and clear enough to identify resins so they can be recycled.
"Hopefully they will allow people to fill them out in a matter of seconds," Kaplan said. "It allows [the material] to be properly recycled and also keep account of it."
The problem of resin identification was a major obstacle at NPE 1997, along with collecting and sorting difficulties, and problems in communication.
"The old program was not as detailed for picking up resins," Morgenstern said. In addition to a color-coding system for resin identification, other improvements include a wireless communications system for recycling monitors to respond to booths. Also, Maine Plastics is trying to get the material out of McCormick Place as efficiently as possible with a detailed trucking schedule and removal from booths.
Based on surveys from about 100 of the largest exhibitors, Harpham expects about 800,000 pounds of mostly high and low density polyethylene to be reprocessed. In 1997, the show recycled only 500,000-600,000 pounds of material.
She also said that, based on surveys received by May 24, the average amount of production from a booth is 7,521 pounds. The production at individual booths ranges from 2,000-120,000 pounds.
"Our biggest goal is to get all 800,000 pounds recycled, but realistically it may be around 80 percent," Harpham said.
She said the feedback from exhibitors so far has been positive toward the program. The exhibitors' only cost is to remove the material from their booths to the loading dock.
"They were very interested and upbeat," Harpham said. "They wanted to know their responsibilities."
Robert Bell, manager of communications for Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. at Booth S2500, said the recycling program has a "pretty good chance" of being successful, because most of the material is clean and well-suited for recycling.
"We normally recycle edge trim," Bell said. "At NPE we can recycle on site and put it right back into the line." Bell added that the booth will be producing a roll stock of about 20,000 pounds of a combination of PE and polypropylene film. Also, while the booth will exhibit several machines, only one will be running.
"We are making 24-inch diameter rolls, and those are easily recycled on site," he said.
The majority of material that would not have an opportunity to be recycled would be the samples that customers take home, but those are not likely to be recycled anyway, Bell said.
Kaplan and Robert Render, president of Maine Plastics, said the program relies on the exhibitors, but at the same time it tries to reduce work for them.
Booth workers sign work orders for material to be removed to the loading docks, a service that the exhibitors pay for. Pallets and gaylords are free — they were donated by Ferro Corp. of Cleveland and International Paper of New York.
The material is then loaded onto trucks and transported to a Maine Plastics reprocessing facility.
According to Render, the main obstacles for the recycling program have been cooperating with the exhibitors, improving efficiency between the McCormick Place staff and their own staff, and coordinating the logistics of the trucking schedule.
Render hopes the pre-show efforts, such as informational meetings, will help exhibitors fulfill their responsibilities. Harpham said a recycling office will be set up to assist exhibitors.
Render said SPI is covering Maine Plastics' expenses, and although a final figure is not available, all items of the budget are approved by SPI. Trucking, for example, is set at about $20,000, Kaplan said. The details of the trucking schedule are still being worked out because, Harpham said, it needs a detailed and precise schedule.
"They are still working on getting the system smooth," she said. "It really must be carefully scheduled."
Render added that he hopes to keep expenses down.
"One of our goals is to do this as cost effectively as possible," he said.
According to Morgenstern, SPI is spending 20 percent more on recycling this year than it did in 1997, although he would not disclose an exact amount. He added that he was willing to go over the budget.
"We hope to recycle all the plastics so it doesn't end up in the Chicago dump," Morgenstern said.
In 1999, Maine Plastics reported $10.5 million in sales, up from $10 million the previous year. The company has a recycling volume of 44 million pounds. Render said the company usually does not recycle post-consumer material, but instead focuses on industrial scrap.