A recycling company and a startup will try to keep silicone baby products out of landfill.
3R Recycling Inc. will accept used injection molded silicone baby teethers from Mello & Co. and try to find markets for the raw material from the out-grown items, 3R owner Joe Shamatta said in a phone interview.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get them out of the waste stream,” Shamatta said from 3R's office in Avon, Mass.
The project is in its infancy but Shamatta and Mello founder Sue Kellogg hope U.S. markets will develop for silicone resins recovered from discarded Nawgums, the new teethers developed by Kellogg for babies up to 24 months old.
3R mainly handles post-industrial commodity resins like polyolefins, polystyrene and PVC but Shamatta said he is receptive to see if recycling silicone can work. He is still looking into potential uses but early possibilities include de-polymerizing the silicone into smaller molecules that could find use as lubricants, or adding ground-up resin to asphalt, as is sometimes done with recycled rubber, another thermoset polymer.
It could take months for Mello to accumulate enough returned teethers to ship to 3R, Shamatta said, but he is patient. He estimates loads of 10,000 to 20,000 pounds could be viable for 3R to handle. It will depend on how far consumers buy into the idea.
Kellogg said interest in the program is growing among retailers and consumers as they learn more about what Mello and 3R are trying to do with spent silicone resin.
“There's a recycling tab on Mello's website,” Kellogg explained in a phone interview. Consumers and retailers can access the site to see how they can return spent teethers.
Kellogg got the idea for a newly designed teether about four years ago when her infant began rejecting conventional teethers as she grew older. Nawgum is designed for babies ranging up to 24 months and for all areas of the mouth, including back molars, which are late to arrive.
An undisclosed U.S. molder makes the Nawgums for Mello. The teethers carry a list price of about $19.99. They have been on the market since 2013 when they were well received at a retail trade show, according to Kellogg.
Kellogg and Shamatta feel combining the themes of sustainability and made-in-the-USA will be a winner.