PADNOS: Mixed Thermoformed Plastic Trays

The Need: Mixed thermoformed plastic trays from assembly plants. Thermoformed trays that hold parts come in several different types of plastic. They are all good material for mechanical recycling if sorted correctly. Single Stream MRF operations are not set up to handle this material. Manual sorting is cost prohibitive. Some manufacturers can be trained to sort properly. Some don’t have the space to sort.

The Solution: We partnered with Goodwill West Michigan and helped them obtain two grants. One from the department of labor for training and one from EGLE for equipment. We then built a training program by partnering with Muskegon Community College that would provide certification in all the skills necessary to sort electronics for optimal value, identify, sort, and grind the plastic trays. Participants in the program are 18–24-year-olds with a barrier to work. Once they graduate the 6-week program they get assistance with job placement at one of our customers. Mentorship continues for another 6 months to ensure their success.

What makes it particularly smart or circular? The material stays circulating within Midwest manufacturers while achieving a social justice initiative.

Results, Benefits, and Outcomes to Date: Goodwill is producing about 40,000 lbs. per month of valuable plastic regrind that we compound and sell to end users. The program is still fairly new and is growing every month.

Which of the Pact’s 4 Targets does your work help achieve? Target 2

How are you communicating your success? Internally via our company app, social media, tours of Sustainability City, Conference Presentations

What’s Next? Add additional Goodwill locations.

Roadblocks & Lessons Learned: The biggest challenge is a consistent feed of participants during COVID. We are working closely with other non-profits to help bridge the gap.  I would have started those relationships sooner.

Core Team, Partners, & Participants: Goodwill Sustainability & Executive Leadership, EGLE, Dept of Labor, PADNOS Sustainability Team

Time Frame: 1 year

Budget: $200,000 EGLE equipment grant, $100,000 Dept. of Labor grant, and PADNOS in kind match

Quote: “It is a great day when we develop a true triple bottom line program that has wide reaching impact.” – Kari Bliss, Customer Experience & Sustainability Leader, PADNOS

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