Cope Plastics Inc. finds recycling is not only good for the environment, it is profitable too.
The plastics shapes distributor and fabricator has been recycling its in-house scrap for several years and last year added customers' scrap to its recycling stream.
“Recycling is a stand-alone activity that funds itself and generates profit for the company,” said Cope environment manager Andy Fergurson in a phone interview.
Cope annually recycles about 1.5 million pounds of plastics it generates in its Alton, Ill., headquarters and 16 other locations in the United States. Last year it convinced customers to start sending trimmings and other scrap to Cope for recycling. In the first year of the customer outreach program, it took in 300,000 pounds of customers' waste and already equaled that volume in the first four months of 2014, Fergurson calculated.
“We make a significant effort to find smaller companies that don't generate enough scrap for their own in-house recycling programs,” Fergurson said. “We try to be a one-stop shop.”
Cope separates the scrap and ships it to companies that offer the best price. These firms grind and reprocess the scrap for other end-uses. In some cases, Cope returns the scrap to its original plastic suppliers for their in-house recycling programs. Roechling Engineering Plastics, for example, takes back ultrahigh molecular weight high density polyethylene scrap generated when Cope fabricates parts from Roechling's UHMWHDPE shapes.
Fergurson said Cope has created five new jobs in the past few years to run its recycling activities.
Cope takes its recycling program further than most. In 2012 it installed a solar array on its Alton rooftop to produce electricity to power the 15,000-square-foot recycling operation.
Cope also runs a mixed material recycling program for plastics, cans and paper supplied by its employees. Many on staff live in rural areas lacking recycling infrastructure so their employer helps them be part of the recycling movement. Cope diverts the consumer waste to municipal programs.
“We want to give employees the opportunity to be part of the solution,” explained Ferguson.
Cope's green efforts helped it earn the 2013 Environmental Excellence Award for Best Recycling Program from the International Association of Plastics Distribution. Fergurson has been sharing Cope's experience and enthusiasm by giving clinics and webinars to encourage other distributors and fabricators to come on board.
“It's not a competitive advantage, but it's good practice,” he said.