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Sonoco Recycling, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sonoco and one of the largest packaging recyclers in North America, disclosed that Sonoco Display and Packaging’s Rural Hall, North Carolina facility has successfully diverted over 99 percent of its waste from landfills.

In September 2011, employees at Sonoco’s Rural Hall fulfillment facility formed Team Green to help focus on the goal of achieving landfill-free status in two years. This was a significant challenge for a fulfillment facility whose material mix frequently changes based on the current customer and project running.

One of the major challenges for the team was not only staying on top of the fluctuating material mix but determining the best outlet for each new recyclable encountered. The team began its recycling program by reviewing, monitoring and restricting access to the dumpster. Common recycling areas were set up in production and office areas, and employees were encouraged to bring in their recyclables from home. Once this was accomplished, process and procedures were put into place to help collect, distribute and assess new recyclables as they were encountered.

“In just two years, Team Green was able to divert over 99 percent of Rural Hall’s waste through a mix of recycling, reuse and waste-to-energy,” said Rodger Fuller, group vice president, Paper and Industrial Converted, North America.

A strong component of Rural Hall’s recycling program is the initiative to reuse articles that aren’t easily recyclable. Many old inventory items such as bags or boxes, previously slated as waste, are now distributed among employees. This initiative also includes items that can be reused by local non-profit organizations. Used work gloves are given to Goodwill, and scrap bubble wrap and other items that were once thrown away now benefit non-profit educational programs within the community. Used computers, printers and other inventory items are donated to public schools in need of supplies for art or learning.

To help further drive home the importance of recycling, an Employee Recycling Account was setup to collect funds from the newly formed waste streams. This account is dumped at the end of the year and is evenly split among all permanent employees as a thank you for their participation in these recycling efforts.

Created to recognize customer and Sonoco facilities for achieving significant milestones in landfill diversion and waste stream reduction, the Sustainability Star Award program is composed of three tiers:

  • Gold Star Awards, which recognize facilities that have achieved 99 percent landfill diversion;
  • Silver Star Recognition, which is awarded to facilities achieving 95 percent landfill diversion; and
  • Bronze Awards, which recognize facilities that have made significant waste reduction achievements.

Published in the April 2014 Edition of American Recycler News