Top 5 Recycling Trends in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are not standing by as the recycling mindset takes hold in homes, schools, businesses and municipalities. Here are five recycling trends being embraced by manufacturers.

1. Rubber processor recycles water

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company operates an enormous tire-testing site – the San Angelo Proving Grounds facility in San Angelo, Texas. The Proving Grounds cover 7,250 acres and include 58 miles of roads and tracks for on-vehicle testing of about 20,000 tires each year.

In its new vehicle dynamics area, which is used for testing tires in extreme wet conditions, Goodyear uses a constant flow of water across a paved surface with a one-degree slope. All of the water that flows across this 324,000 sq. ft. pad is recycled and reused.

To create the wet conditions, Goodyear collects rain water and groundwater on-site, flooding the test surface with a volume of about 15,000 gallons. The water drains from the test area to a drafting pit where sediment settles out. Goodyear estimates that it is able to capture and reuse approximately 98% of the water – a valuable implementation of recycling in a state where water is a precious commodity.

2. Injection molder recycles excess plastic

Plastics molders that handle a single or limited mix of polymers often process their own post-production waste to be reused as raw material. But molders that use multiple mixes may feel hamstrung by the challenge of trying to achieve sustainable manufacturing.

An Iowa-based micro injection molder found a way to recycle its large number of resin blends and grades.

The molder created a strategy to identify and track its various resins with a method that also allowed for identifying and labeling its waste materials. Keeping the waste materials separated, and identified, made it possible to partner with a recycling and compounding company nearby. The result is a win-win-win: a win for the molder, a win for the recycler and a win for the environment.

3. Machining company recycles metal scrap and cutting oil

As with the problems that plastic scrap recycling poses to molders, metal scrap and cutting oil can pose a recycling challenge for moldmakers and metalworkers.

A Canadian machining company had been recycling its metal scrap and fluids for years with the belief that it was important to protect the environment. But when the company reconsidered recycling – from the viewpoint of efficiency and cost-savings – it decided to revamp and improve its recycling system.

Rather than viewing its recycling equipment as an afterthought for the business – and subordinate to the production-oriented equipment at the plant – the company came to think of its recycling equipment as a priority investment.

After implementing a new system to handle metal waste and spent oil, the company has a recycling system that is cleaner and more efficient, and that has generated a quantifiable return on investment.

4. Printer recycles everything from soup to nuts

A commercial printing company in California is heavy into sustainability and recycling. It recycles paper, ink and its aluminum printing plates.

The company also recycles the plastic shrink wrap from incoming deliveries of pallets of paper. And the company is searching for biodegradable material to use in its own shrink wrap machines. In the meantime, it has added banding machines that use paper for bundling, which may eliminate its need for any sort of plastic wrap.

5. Paper mill recycles waste into energy

A paper mill in Canada, an early adopter of sustainability that began producing recycled paper 30 years ago, found a way to recycle a plentiful commodity: waste that was headed for a nearby landfill.

With the knowledge that decomposing waste produces methane – a biogas that can be used as a fuel – the papermaking company partnered with its landfill operator and its municipal gas provider.

The landfill implemented a biogas plant, the gas provider installed a pipeline to transport the biogas to the paper mill, and the papermaker switched to using biogas as its fuel. Rather than burning fuel made from extracted petrochemicals, the mill now burns the more economical biogas that – uncaptured – would have been emitted into the atmosphere otherwise.

As recycling, sustainability and the circular economy become “business as usual” for manufacturing, there are more ways than ever to rethink and reuse, and to reap the benefits.