Practicing what they preach
IF company lives green, breathes green

By Corey Meints

Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls turns discarded plastic into usable products like benches and industrial parts, but the company takes its recycling seriously, implementing company-wide green practices that reduce energy usage, saving the company money and protecting the environment.
Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls turns discarded plastic into usable products like benches and industrial parts, but the company takes its recycling seriously, implementing company-wide green practices that reduce energy usage, saving the company money and protecting the environment.

Perhaps no business in the area knows more about recycling than Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls. The local company recycles more than 5 million pounds of plastic into environmentally sustainable products every year. For perspective, that’s some 35 million milk jugs not going to fill the local landfill. Plastic Recycling utilizes patented equipment to manufacture custom molded products such as park benches, picnic tables, planters, trash receptacles, wheel chocks, speed bumps and more industrial products. These lines dramatically reduce the cost of custom-molded products principally because of Plastic Recycling’s unique ability to design and manufacture inexpensive molds. Plastic Recycling officials recognized long ago that burying plastic waste is a problem. Plastic Recycling offers a viable alternative to municipalities in order that we save our landfill space. It is the company’s goal to make plastics a community resource rather than a burden. Plastic Recycling has been in business since 1986, first as Hammer’s Plastic Recycling. Two years later the company won the Governor’s Award for best exemplifying the achievements and contributions industry makes each year to Iowa and its communities. By 1999, the company adopted its new name and business began to grow.

With that growth came increased waste from doing business. While tons of plastic enters the facility destined to be something useful, things like broken pallets, junk mail and other waste isn’t. Plastic Recycling had long ago introduced a policy on how to address that waste and make the business more efficient and environmentally friendly.

“Everything we do reduces our costs,” said Bob Mestdagh, vice president of production. “And it’s what we do here.”

Quite literally, Plastic Recycling practices what it preaches. The company has even gone so far as to implement policy regarding going green in the workplace. It really is from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The policy even begins outside the company’s walls.

Everything Plastic Recycling makes is from recycled plastic. All of that plastic comes from within the state or surrounding states to minimize the energy used in transporting the material.

All waste produced by employees is also recycled. Cardboard and office paper is baled and sent out, as are steel and other metals. Pallets are reused when possible and those that aren’t are available to anyone as firewood.

Each desk and production area has recycling bins to collect materials. There are also recycling bins for printer cartridges, fluorescent bulbs and batteries. While that is a great start, Plastic Recycling goes even further to reduce its effects on the environment. The energy needed to manufacture all of the company’s products is massive and expensive. As a way to counteract the cost and waste associated with the process, Plastic Recycling has converted its machines and controls to run more efficiently.

Jim Hoffman, president and CEO of the company, said it just makes sense to do that. “We’ve switched to high-efficiency motors and a new generation of visual controls,” he noted. “It goes right down to lighting in the warehouse that are sound and motion detectors. They shut off automatically after 20 minutes when there’s no activity, then come on when somebody enters.”

The cooling system, insulation, lighting fixtures, roofing and thermostats have all been replaced to run a cleaner operation. Regular maintenance also helps everything to run efficiently. Even the company car is a hybrid.

Natural, biodegradable cleaning materials are used throughout the facility and there are no chemicals used in the manufacturing of items. This further adds to the green footprint Plastic Recycling is trying to make.

“It all reduces cost and clutter,” Hoffman said. “And, it helps us run more efficiently.”

Plus, Hoffman and Mestdagh said, it’s the right thing to do. Plastic Recycling officials feel so strongly about its green practices that it offers tours of the facility to local schools, organizations and groups to demonstrate the company’s successful recycling operation and to encourage recycling. For Hoffman, the way his company does things is just right. First, as a mechanical engineer, he wanted to see the company grow and be more efficient. Second, as a local spokesman for the Iowa Falls Boat Club, he wanted to see the environment become healthy. The two together have become a source of pride for him and the 48 employees of Plastic Recycling.

“There’s a bigger picture than just cost and profit,” Hoffman said. “Why put into a landfill when you can make something useful? The environment is broke in some ways, and we like to try and fix that.”

The green nature of the company’s operation is really a pleasant side effect of improving the business. It took years to get the company to where it is today, Hoffman said. Through all the changes to increase profitability by lowering costs and running efficiently, the waste output in materials and energy have decreased. Hoffman said it is now taking five lines to meet needs as opposed to the seven it used to take.

“I feel good about what we do here,” Hoffman added. “First, we have a $5 million a year impact on the local economy and that helps everyone around us. Second, we’re making useful products and developing more every year. Our company works well and that’s a good feeling.”

For more information, contact Corey Meints at mmeints@iafalls.com