Greystone Manufacturing is a major consumer of recycled plastics for its plastic pallets, which are, in fact, injection molded from 100 percent recycled content from post-industrial and post-consumer sources.
At its factory in Bettendorf, Iowa, Greystone repelletizes its own plastic, molds the pallet components on nine Milacron injection presses and assembles them. Many go into the food and beverage industry.
Each month, Greystone redirects nearly 2 million pounds of plastic from landfills.
That recycling effort itself is impressive. But a long-term partnership with Goodwill in the Quad Cities area has netted Greystone the PN Excellence Award for industry and public service.
Greystone's relationship with Goodwill of the Heartland began in 2009, when the pallet maker got an opportunity to recycle old pill bottles. It was a major challenge, since the used medicine bottles are made of several different types of plastic, have paper labels, an aluminum liner and the familiar wad of cotton, plus what Greystone called “that awful folded paper product description glued to the side of a bottle.”
How could Greystone handle this labor-intensive task, to prepare the pill bottles for use in its pallets? Goodwill was the answer.
Goodwill workers sorted the many truckloads of pharmaceutical bottles according to size and color, then removed the labels and foreign material. Greystone then grinds the bottles into chips, used as recycled plastic for its pallets.
Other people from Goodwill assisted with janitorial work.
You already know what happens to most pill bottles once the medicine is used up: Straight into the trash, and on to the landfill.
Greystone started with six Goodwill clients who came to the pallet maker, along with their job coach. When the big project ended, the company hired four of them to continue as production workers. Currently, they assemble about 220 pallets a day in Bettendorf, typically working 25 hours a week. One of the clients now lives independently, while two others now take a bus to work.
In its submission for the award, Greystone quotes employee Marilyn Carter: “These guys are a part of our company, and are very proud to work with us [as are we]. They are consistent and thorough and we consider them to valuable members of the Greystone team.”
Goodwill of the Heartland named Greystone its Employer of the Year.
But Greystone's teamwork with Goodwill of the Heartland goes much further. Since that first pill bottle project in 2009, the company has done numerous other projects. Greystone has shipped multiple loads of unsorted plastics to Goodwill locations for sorting.
So far, Goodwill employees — and clients of programs similar to Goodwill, such as Progress Inc., which provides work and training to people with developmental disabilities in southwest Minnesota — have sorted and processed some 215,500 pounds of materials.
Now the recycling experts at Greystone are studying whether plastic broom heads can be reprocessed.
The pallet-maker certainly breaks new ground on materials technology and turning recycled plastic into finished products. Greystone's innovation extends to putting faith in people facing challenges in their lives — motivated employees who look forward to coming to work, and making a valuable contribution.