Want lower taxes? Recycle more

If you’re concerned about the high cost of living, read on. There’s one simple thing we can all do to help our towns and us save money: Recycle more.

New Jersey is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its mandatory recycling law — the nation’s first — and is re-energizing the movement by emphasizing that “going green” can save greenbacks while helping the environment.

The state’s goal is to raise our recycling rate to 50 percent, meaning that at least half of the stuff we throw away doesn’t end up in landfills or incinerators.

Right now, the numbers are less than stellar. Only 16 percent of the state’s municipalities have met the 50 percent goal. A third of our towns recycle less than 25 percent of their trash.

“People are not recycling the way they should,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, chairwoman of the Assembly’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee, who wants to find ways to make recycling easier and more consistent from county to county.

Although the state hasn’t hit its recycling goal, the trend seems to be moving in the right direction. Between 2009 and 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available), New Jersey’s overall recycling rate climbed from 37 to 40 percent for municipal trash.

That translates into real savings for taxpayers, through cost avoidance and sales of recyclable materials.

Here’s how it works: In 2010, an extra 364,000 tons of metal, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard were not sent to landfills or incinerators. That resulted in $26 million in savings from avoided disposal costs. At the same time, the recyclables were sold for $45.5 million, adding up to a total savings of $71.5 million.

To reach the state’s 50 percent recycling goal, another 1.1 million tons must be recycled each year. It’s a challenge, but achievable. Other states have done it, and New Jersey can, too.

You can do your town, yourself and the environment a favor by recycling everything you can. In the 25 years since the mandatory recycling law was signed by Gov. Tom Kean, it’s gotten much easier.

Back in 1987, most households had to separate metals from glass and further separate glass by color. Today, in contrast, many of us have the convenience of single-stream recycling. That is, we can toss all glass, plastic and metals into one container. In addition to newspapers and magazines, most junk mail and office paper can be recycled.

But, as Spencer noted, there are inconsistencies that pose a challenge. “Why is it that a yogurt container accepted (for recycling) in Essex County isn’t accepted in Ocean County?” she asked.

The state, Spencer said, must also make it easier to recycle old clothing and electronics, safely dispose of long-lasting light bulbs that shouldn’t go in the trash, and compost food waste.

For more information about recycling, go to the state’s website at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycling.

Michele Byers

Executive director

New Jersey Conservation Foundation

Far Hills


Handle on recyc…

Handle on recycling

Eugene packaging firm aims to use more recycled plastic in its handles

 By Saul Hubbard

The Register-Guard

 Published: August 19, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Aug. 19

Like many businesses that make products using virgin plastic, Eugene-based PakTech is facing an identity crisis.

The national marketplace, responding to a more environmentally conscious consumer base, is shifting slowly toward recycled plastics, forcing plastic manufacturers to adapt.

Since the 1990s, PakTech, a family-run business based in two factories in an industrial section of west Eugene, has produced the handles that bind the multi-packs of food products that can be found on the shelves of Costco stores and other bulk retailers.

The company’s handles are used on everything from juice, soda, beer and salsa to cleaning products, mouthwash and fabric softener. The company’s most popular handle is what they call their TwinPak — which binds two items — but their product line is malleable: new handles are being developed constantly to meet the specific needs of their customers’ products.

It’s a niche industry. But PakTech dominates it nationally, with an estimated 95 percent share of the market, thanks in part to design patents it holds on several key characteristics of its molded plastic handles.

The company also has strong relationships with Costco and Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club, which often send food producers trying to meet the retailers’ multi-pack requirements PakTech’s way.

PakTech sells 300 million handles a year — at prices ranging from a few cents to more than a dime — more than double the volume it moved a decade ago.

While declining to release specific revenue numbers, Amie Thomas, PakTech’s vice president of sales and marketing and daughter of company founder Jim Borg, said that sales have increased consistently — and the recession did little to slow them.

“Packaging is the second biggest industry in the world,” Thomas said. “But people don’t think about it unless it’s causing them problems.”

Last summer, PakTech started what could turn out to be a major transition for the business: integrating “post-­consumer” or recycled plastic handles into its product line.

From a production standpoint, the transition is simple. The handles are made in huge industrial mold presses: small plastic resin pellets, blended with coloring, are injected into aluminium molds, heated, solidified through pressure and cooled with water — all in about eight seconds.

Using recycled plastic pellets, which PakTech purchases from a California supplier, doesn’t change that process.

The challenge lies in getting food producers to accept the recycled plastic handles, Thomas said, even though they are priced the same as the virgin plastic handles.

But virgin plastic pellets produce brightly colored and shiny handles, while the recycled pellets can produce a dull or matte finish.

PakTech’s customers also can be wary of switching to a new product that they fear might be less sturdy and durable, Thomas said. It can take some time for customers to conduct the tests they need to be satisfied with the new products, she said.

Still, just a couple of weeks ago, PakTech’s biggest customer — a major U.S. soft drink company — signed up to use the recycled handles.

“That was great,” Thomas said.

A year into the transition, about 10 percent of the handles PakTech sells are made with recycled plastic. Thomas said that, eventually, the company would like to sell recycled handles exclusively, although she acknowledges that might be an overly optimistic goal.

PakTech currently has 126 permanent employees, up from 60 in 2001. While some of the company’s low-skill workers have been replaced with automation over time, the company’s high-skill, technical work force has grown. Those high-skill workers build applicators, large automated machines that attach PakTech’s handles to products as they move along a customer’s assembly line. PakTech sells and ships about 15 applicators a year.

Although some of the newer machines cost several hundred thousand dollars, the applicator side of the business largely has been a money loser over the last decade, Thomas said. But customers need the equipment to attach the handles rapidly, so selling applicators helps the company sell more of their primary product, she adds.

More than 80 percent of PakTech’s customer base is headquartered on the East Coast, but the company hasn’t considered relocating, Thomas said.

“That’s certainly one of the benefits of being a family-owned business; there are less outside forces to deal with.”

“We like the (Eugene) community. We enjoy being a good employer locally. … You can diss plastic all you want, but if we weren’t here there would just be someone doing this in China instead.”

PakTech has made some forays into the international marketplace in recent years, targeting Mexico and Latin America. Those efforts are still in the embryonic stage, Thomas said, although the company has opened a distribution center in Mexico.

Although many of the company’s patents, which last 10 years, will end soon — the “Unipak” patent already has expired — Thomas said there isn’t much concern about new competitors popping up.

“We have so much expertise and know-how in this business that it would be hard for a new company to come in and compete with us immediately,” she added. “They’d have to eat years of (financial) losses.”

Thomas said the plan is to keep the business in the family after her father, company President Jim Borg, retires (“which will be never,” she jokes).

Thomas and her brother, Zak Borg, current vice-president and director of engineering, are expected to eventually take over the reins.

“The succession is all very amiable, and we are learning the best way to run the company together,” Thomas said.

Women take up the cause of tackling plastic menace

V Mayilvaganan, TNN | Jul 24, 2012, 06.57AM IST

MADURAI: Naganakulam panchayat level federation (PLF) of women self-help groups (WSHG) has taken up a novel project of recycling plastic materials, shredding them into minute pieces that can be used for laying plastic roads. Ten districts in the state were taken up for the pilot project of recycling the plastic for road construction purposes and the order was issued by the government in the month of March. Out of the 10 districts, Madurai became the pioneer with district collector, Anshul Mishra officially inaugurating the unit at Naganakulam last Friday.

During the visit to the unit, situated in a small hall at Naganakulam, the women are eagerly working on their project as some are busy segregating the plastic bags and materials while few are involved in feeding the plastic materials into the shredding machine that grind the plastic into small particles. Within one hour, the women are able to grind 20 kg of plastic.

There are 480 members from 40 WSHGs in Naganakulam PLF and out of them eight WSHGs have come forward to work on the project. With each group sending one representative, there are eight women making the core group while others will support them in plastic collection and other things.

“We have asked all women self-help groups to collect plastic materials in their panchayat level and we will procure the materials for Rs five per kg. The shredded materials can be sold to Rs 16 per kg,” says G Aruna working with the machine. Public can also collect the used plastic carry bags, tea cups at their homes and hand over to us, she added.

V Karthikaiselvi, manager of District Supplies and Marketing Society under women’s project said the total cost of project was Rs 3.75 lakhs with full government subsidy. The shredding machine has cost Rs 1.60 lakhs while remaining funds will be spent on other purposes like maintenance. “Shredded plastic will be procured by the district rural development agency (DRDA) and they will use the materials for laying plastic roads in the rural areas,” she said.

R Ganesan, joint director/project officer, women’s project said the state government had proposed this project in January and passed an order in March. Ten districts were selected for the pilot study and Madurai was one among them and meticulous planning has helped them to start the project as the pioneers in the state, he said. “We have trained women in this work by February itself and ordered for the machine as soon as the order was passed. We are the first one to inaugurate the project and other districts are eager to follow our path,” he said.

“We came to know about the project during the PLF meeting held in May and we wanted to utilise the opportunity. While recycling of plastic can provide employability for our women, we will also involve in most important work of keeping the environment clean by recycling plastic. So, we opted for the project without a second thought,” says G Bothilakshmi, secretary of Naganakulam PLF.

Plastic Road Technology

Waste plastics, shredded into small pieces (2.5mm – 4.36 mm) and sprayed over hot aggregate (170 degree C); the shredded plastics melts and gets coated over the aggregate. This coated aggregate shows better binding property with bitumen. This waste plastic coated aggregate is mixed with bitumen and the mixer has better strength and resistance to water. The roads laid in this manner do not form potholes because of its lower water permeability character and it is also eco-friendly. Further, it helps to solve not only disposal of waste plastics effectively and usefully but also makes the road to withstand heavy load. The plastic road is the invention of R Vasudevan, dean, Thigarajar College of Engineering, Madurai and he patented the same in the year 2002. Vasudevan was also present for the inaugural function of the unit and he renders his support, said the women self-help group members.