Recycling the unrecyclable
TerraCycle launches collection program for industrial chemical packages
TRENTON, N.J.—Bottles and packages containing industrial chemicals such as adhesives often end up in the landfill, as they can’t be recycled through regular blue bin programs.
New Jersey-based TerraCycle Inc. is setting out to change that; offering manufacturers another option for their hard-to-recycle containers. Drawing on its success with numerous consumer-facing recycling programs, TerraCycle is now partnering with industry to demonstrate how empty industrial chemical packages can find new life.
It’s launching a Zero Waste Box program this month to collect and recycle the packaging of Henkel’s Loctite anaerobic adhesive products packaging.
Henkel is the first adhesive manufacturer TerraCycle had worked with. “There were definitely some challenges and interesting conversations to start with,” notes Rhandi Goodman, global vice-president of the Zero Waste box program with TerraCycle.
The anaerobic adhesive packaging isn’t easily recyclable because of the residual glue left inside, a substance that could ruin a typical recycling machine. TerraCycle’s team developed a cryogenic process to safely recycle the empty bottles along with any residual material.
Henkel is rolling out the program in Canada and the US. To collect the empty adhesive containers, Loctite-branded Zero Waste Collection boxes are being distributed through Henkel adhesives distribution partners. The double-wall corrugate collection boxes have a pre-paid return-shipping (UPS) label, and are available in three sizes.
Requests for the boxes will funnel through TerraCycle, who will fulfill and ship the orders. When the boxes are full, they’ll return to TerraCycle for recycling.
Consumer to industrial
TerraCycle’s involvement with Henkel originated with the company’s North American consumer beauty care division (which includes brands like Dial, Schwarzkopf, and Right Guard). It was Simon Mawson, head of Henkel’s adhesives industrial division in North America, who made a connection to pursue an industrial-focused project.
According to Mawson, a lot of legal, regulatory and R & D work had to be done to ensure the safety and compliance of the program, right down to making sure the collection containers placed in customer manufacturing facilities are safe to ship and have the proper multi-lingual labeling and required warnings. Even so, he sees significant value in the program, and what it means to business sustainability.
“A lot of manufacturing companies have done everything they can in terms of changing light bulbs and making processes more efficient, so facilities are always looking for other ways to improve their footprint. By being able to eliminate a waste stream like this, it’s a very compelling [benefit] for anybody running a manufacturing plant,” Mawson says.
TerraCycle and Henkel are now working together to determine the types of products that could be made from the recycled packaging materials.
Beyond developing the full-circle recycling program, TerraCycle also helps market the program to other industrial companies. As part of the ongoing story, the Loctite Adhesives team will be involved in an episode of TerraCycle’s TV show “Human Resources” with appears on the US network Pivot TV.
“This relationship is taking us to places that we would have never thought we would go as an adhesives company a year ago,” says Mawson, adding there’s a lot of excitement within the company. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I think we’re going to be able to do with this partnership.”
Now that they’ve established the anaerobic adhesives program, Henkel is looking to expand to other parts of its adhesives portfolio.
The program provides another option for manufacturers who use industrial adhesives to reduce waste and further improve their environmental footprint. TerraCycle, for its part, will continue to tackle hard-to-recycle packages, proving the previously impossible can be achieved through innovation and a willing industrial partner.
Doug Picklyk is a contributing editor to CanadianManufacturing.com and Cleantech Canada.