Menasha Corp. is advertising its renewable-energy initiatives in a blatantly obvious way: Five wind turbines with 15-foot blades perch atop 100-foot towers outside its Neenah headquarters like a row of giant white daisies on the side of U.S. Highway 41.
Built by Renewegy LLC of nearby Oshkosh, Wis., the 20-kilowatt turbines are controlled by seven microcomputers that determine when and how to run each machine in 10-minute cycles, according to Menasha.
The wind machines are expected to generate 150,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to provide power for lights, computers and office equipment at the headquarters.
The company — which consists of paperboard-intensive Menasha Packaging Co. LLC, plastics reusable-packaging maker Orbis Corp., pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer Cortegra and point-of-purchase marketer LeveragePoint Media — recently earned the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce trade association's Business Friend of the Environment Award. The firm was recognized for its environmental stewardship programs, which include the turbines installed starting in November, as well as plans to reduce overall carbon emissions, water consumption and solid waste by 20 percent from 2010 levels by 2020.
Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Orbis, which manufactures plastic shipping containers, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems, contributed to Menasha's recent sustainability efforts with life-cycle assessments of its products. Those products constitute the bulk of Menasha's plastics business, spokeswoman Samantha Goetz said during a May 13 interview at Menasha's headquarters.
In addition to conducting sustainability training with its front-line salespeople, Orbis launched an asset-tracking pilot program with a major food company, made moves to lightweight its containers and optimize pallets for stackability, and increased customer participation in its Recycle with Orbis exchange program. That program allows Orbis to buy or provide credit toward future purchases to clients in exchange for excess plastic packaging, Goetz said.
“Helping companies implement plastic reusable packaging to reduce their impact on the environment is at the heart of what we do,” Orbis President Bill Ash said in a May 14 email. “At the same time, we are committed to lowering the impact that our own operations have on the environment through energy reduction, continuous improvement and resource-optimization programs.”
According to figures provided by Goetz, Orbis recently upgraded lighting at several of its plants, resulting in significant electricity savings:
* In Urbana, Ohio, the company reduced annual consumption by 1.9 million kwh, and its Mentor, Ohio, facility saved 565,000 kwh.
* The firm's Monticello, Iowa, plant cut back electricity use by 406,000 kwh.
* Orbis' Rexdale, Ontario, factory reduced electricity use by 692,000 kwh annually.
The Ontario facility also had its water system upgraded to reduce usage by 85 percent.
Orbis also is a market leader in curbside recycling bins and backyard composting bins from its Norseman Environmental product line. Orbis acquired Norseman Plastics Holdings Ltd. of Toronto in 2008. Several major North American retailers such as Sears and Canadian Tire carry the Norseman bins.
Menasha Corp. employs 3,200 in North America and said its annual sales approach $1 billion. Orbis employs 1,500 at 32 sites worldwide.