For plastics processors, sustainability can start with ``small, incremental and doable things,'' like installing more-efficient lighting or tallying up pounds of waste, the president of trade group Mid-America Plastics Partners said at a conference in Rosemont.
``A lot of the things that are falling under the heading of sustainability might also fall under the heading of good, profitable business practices,'' Tom Duffey said during Sustainability in the Plastics Industry, held Sept. 24 during the Plastec Midwest/Plastics USA trade show.
Duffey also is president of custom injection molder Plastic Components Inc. of Germantown, Wis. PCI cuts energy use by reducing heat generated from the molding process to heat the factory and by running a closed-loop chilling system.
At PCI's offices, motion sensors turn off lights after you leave the room.
But Duffey, who said he drinks coffee from disposable foam cups, started out with a disclaimer: ``I'm no expert on sustainability.'' So Duffey surveyed members of MAPP, an Indianapolis-based trade group. Many companies said they have installed new lighting. Another way to cut electricity bills is to reduce peak-load demand when you start up your factory Monday morning.
``You pay for that spike, your peak usage,'' Duffey said.
During his speech, Duffey ran down some highlights from MAPP members:
Officials of Dorel Juvenile Group Inc., which makes car safety seats, strollers, high chairs and other child-safety products, grabbed the attention of employees by taking photographs at a landfill of trash trucks dumping actual waste generated by the factory in Columbus, Ind. It was simple but effective. ``Then they brought it back to their plant, posted it on the employee bulletin boards and said, `What are we going to do about this?''' Duffey said.
The company compiled data about each type of waste. Employees started tracking it each month. Dorel found recyclers for the material.
``They went from 204 truckloads a year to a landfill, to one truckload per month,'' Duffey said. ``They track their waste the way we track utilization. They track their waste very, very aggressively.''
Duffey said a Dorel official told him that employees wanted to help improve the environment, but needed management to lead the way and work out details.
Nicolet Plastics Inc., an injection molder in Mountain, Wis., recycled 140,000 pounds of material last year, including plastics and other forms of waste. ``And they are a small company. I was astounded by that number,'' Duffey said. Nicolet officials also reviewed startup procedures and made some money-saving changes.
Parish Manufacturing Inc., an Indianapolis maker of bag-in-box systems, sells scrap film to a recycler, and regrinds and reuses a high percentage of its injection molding scrap. The company also sends cores from wound film back to the film suppliers.
MET Plastics Inc. in Elk Grove Village, Ill., a rapid prototyping and short-run molder and mold maker, replaced old halogen lighting with fluorescent lights and upgraded its heating, ventilation and air conditioning scheme. The company also reprocesses its scrap in a closed-loop system.
York Imperial Plastics Inc., a molder in York, Pa., sells its used hydraulic fluid to a local Amish business that filters it and burns it for heat in the winter. The company also improved its lighting and recycles scrap. Duffey said the company also uses returnable shipping containers when possible.
Makuta Technics Inc., a micromolder in Shelbyville, Ind., saves several hundred dollars a month by improving their startup power spike.
Another speaker at the conference, Scott Charon, explained how office furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. has built sustainability into its operations and products.
A ``cradle-to-cradle'' approach means furniture is designed so that, when its useful life is over, it can be taken apart and the components reused or recycled, said Charon, who is new product development manager at the Holland, Mich., company.
Other speakers at the daylong conference, sponsored by Injection Molding Magazine and Modern Plastics Worldwide, were Jim Gray, head of green initiatives at PolyOne Corp.; Robert McKay, project manager of sustainable polymers for Sabic Innovative Plastics LP; Bill Carteaux, president and chief executive officer of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.; and Robert Strickley, marketing director of Milacron Inc.