by Carson Weisbord, Channeled Resources Group
For many manufacturers, waste is an out of sight, out of mind problem after it leaves the facility. The garbage truck comes, waste is loaded up and it’s hauled away. That’s it. Many believe there is no choice when it comes to the destination. This certainly applies to hot and cold foil roll waste. A large majority of it is currently disposed of through the landfill.
Recently, the Foil & Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) has partnered with Channeled Resources Group to work toward changing this mindset and creating an alternative for foil waste disposal. The Chicago-based organization has long been an advocate for responsible environmental practices in manufacturing. Utilizing a global network, Channeled Resources finds sustainable alternatives for nonrecyclable waste and other obsolete materials. “We are delighted with the new relationship with FSEA. This partnership is a win-win for both: it allows for the development of needed feedstocks for Convergen’s engineered fuel, while providing a sustainable solution for FSEA members,” said Calvin Frost, Channeled Resources Group chairman.
A sustainable alternative for foil waste
For many years, Channeled Resources focused exclusively on materials resold in secondary markets. In 2008 that changed. As the manufacturing world continued to increase focus on sustainability, Channeled Resources Group partnered with Convergen Energy, out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, to pursue a new venture: Waste-to-Energy. The new program provides a sustainable alternative for materials that have no value in secondary markets and would otherwise be sent to landfills. Convergen uses a variety of obsolete waste materials, including spent hot and cold foil rolls, to manufacture an EPA-approved combustible fuel pellet. These pellets remove and reduce coal usage in industrial power plants, burning far cleaner.
For eight years, Convergen sold these pellets to coal-burning power plants across the Midwest. At first, the volatile energy market led to struggles with revenue and inconsistent outlets for pellets. That all changed in 2016 when Convergen purchased a commercial power plant in L’Anse, Michigan. Pellets now are trucked from Green Bay to L’Anse daily to be used as fuel for energy generated by the plant and sold to the grid. Vertical integration has allowed the firm to focus on increasing material volume, growing revenue and closing the geographic loop for waste. Convergen’s processing volume has increased threefold since July 2017.
Cost effective and environmentally friendly
The Waste-to-Energy program is also easy for companies to join. Manufacturers send full truckloads of gaylord boxes filled with obsolete foil rolls to Convergen’s Green Bay facility. Upon arrival, rolls are guillotined, shredded and mixed with other nonrecyclable materials to produce fuel pellets. This solution offers an environmentally-friendly means of removing used or obsolete rolls from the waste stream with minimal changes to waste disposal practices. A gaylord box of foil material accounts for around 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. Once about 15 to 20 of these boxes are filled and stored, the manufacturer simply schedules a pick-up. The process minimizes freight costs and carbon emissions by shipping truckload quantities of material to Convergen.
While foil stamping produces a beautiful end product, more than 50% of the material used in the manufacturing process often is sent to a landfill. Disposal costs are on the rise, as landfill tipping fees in the Midwest increased nearly 27% in 2017. Increased tipping fees and efficient shipping methods allow manufacturers to make a transition to sustainable waste disposal at equal or lesser cost compared with landfill disposal.
Sustainable alternatives are becoming critically important as landfills begin to reach capacity. If waste flow continues at current volumes, it is expected that landfills could be full within 14 years. Additionally, when waste sits in a landfill, it releases large quantities of methane, a pollutant 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Residential waste also continues to rise, increasing tipping fees. Waste-to-Energy curbs methane emissions and helps avoid the construction of more landfills by decreasing demand.
Accessibility and future expansion
Convergen’s facility receives material from all over the Midwest on a daily basis, working with Green Bay-based freight carriers to coordinate backhaul pickups of Waste-to-Energy material. This minimizes carbon footprint as the trucks picking up this material would otherwise come back to Green Bay empty. Channeled Resources utilizes a trusted network of freight carriers to offer rapid, seamless pickup services.
The current service area includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Missouri and North Carolina. As capacity grows, the program plans to add collection sites and increase the service area in Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City by early next year.
Almost all pre-consumer paper and plastic products can be utilized in this process, including printed products. However, no PVC, metal or food grade material can be used in the fuel in order to maintain a high level of quality and minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Convergen also provides certificates of destruction for all materials, ensuring confidentiality for its customers. The certification also allows manufacturers to promote their conservation efforts to customers.
Waste-to-Energy is a valuable first step toward building a circular manufacturing economy. Through this process, waste generators can provide a renewable energy input at a comparable cost to landfilling.
Users of hot and cold foil now have an early opportunity to pursue sustainable waste management and work toward mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change.
Started in 1978, Channeled Resources has grown into a global supplier of coated, treated, and laminated papers and films. In addition to manufacturing, Channeled Resources is a leader in developing alternatives to landfill use for pressure-sensitive adhesives, silicone-coated release liner and specialty films. Our goal is to provide cost-effective and environmentally responsible solutions to our global customers and suppliers. For more information: www.channeledresources.com