The North Vernon plant has been operating since 2006, and those early years required more explanation about the importance of recycled content, Rozenski remembered.
"I would go to a customer in 2009 with the sales team to talk about sustainability and what we're doing with recycling. They might have a person who was interested," he said. "Then a year or two later, they had somebody [but] it was their secondary job.
"Then, maybe 2014, you are seeing our customers have a person that's doing packaging sustainability. By 2016, they had teams of people doing this. That's the story of the importance of sustainability and how much people are focused on it, especially on the packaging side," Rozenski said.
Those earlier days had Novolex having to sell the concept of recycled content to customers. Now the customers are clamoring for more.
"They are asking for it now. They want it. When we started out 10-15 years ago, we had to sell it. Now they want it and they are asking. We are doing various trials to put more in. More and more with each passing year it seems. And that does make it easier for us; people want our product," Rozenski said.
"Whatever product we make in that category, we want to be the leader in sustainability for whatever that is. With plastic retail bags, recycled content, from the very beginning, is where we wanted to go," he said.
The North Vernon location pulls most of its post-consumer film from retail drop-off locations in the Cincinnati area, although some comes from the Indianapolis market. The material is collected at retailers' distribution centers before being transported to Novolex for processing.
"The Midwest is incredibly well positioned to be a recycler," Rozenski said. That's because the transportation system allows for the easy transportation of material and the region is separated from the influences of the import and export markets on both coasts.
Most of the film is from customers returning their used bags and wraps, but some of the plastic also comes from back-of-store operations, Cook explained.
Novolex uses machines to sort and process the plastics that make their way to North Vernon, but the human touch continues to play a role as pickers work sortation lines to remove contaminates that find their way into the recycling stream.
While these employees remain key to the operations, the overall quality of the material has greatly improved over the years as customers better understand what is appropriate for the drop-off bins. Yield loss once hovered around 25 percent due to contamination, but that has dropped over time to between 10-15 percent, Cook said.
"We had a real hard time at one point working with our partners. They did not have a real healthy appetite to help us do some sortation. They just handed us everything. Anything and everything was coming in from the retailers," Cook said.
"Over the years we've been able to get some better streams of material, a lot cleaner. We still have that hand-sorting operation. But the material itself is a lot cleaner and a lot more consistent, easier to process," he said.
Having a consistent input makes for a consistent end product, Rozenski said.