Company C in Concord, NH makes and sells high-quality bedding, furniture, and fabrics. Its products are made in more than 20 countries and sold to customers in twice that many.

Company C’s warehouse is a buzz-saw. Trailers and containers from U.S. and international manufacturing plants are unloaded daily. Merchandise is unpacked, racked, unracked, and repacked. Trailers and less-than-truckload carriers are loaded and dispatched.

Eighteen months ago Company C’s waste program was as simple as a hauler could make it. There was a 10-cubic-yard open top container for trash and another 10-yard container for loose cardboard. Each container took up a space on Company C’s loading dock. Their hauler wouldn’t take their bottles and cans or their office paper. They didn’t track quantities, so Company C had no idea how much they were throwing away and they didn’t offer any alternatives.

In late 2008 Company C asked IRN to take a look, and what we saw was opportunity. Most of their wastes were three recyclable materials: cardboard, plastic sheeting, and woven polypropylene “burlap.” Quantities were large enough to justify a vertical baler. The rest of their wastes were divided between bottles and cans, office paper, and periodic quantities of electronics, metals, batteries, excess furniture, and other miscellaneous materials. All recyclable, and we could put them all on a truck along with bales of cardboard and plastic.

The pieces came together in mid-2009. In the first six months Company C reduced waste disposal by 88% (compared to the previous 6-month period); recycled more than 11 tons of baled cardboard and plastics; recycled about half a ton of office paper, bottles and cans; and reduced waste management costs by 59%. The baler cost about $16,000. Over a 20-year life, Company C’s return on this investment is close to 60%. No small achievement.

An environmental success story, and in tough economic times a meaningful addition to Company C’s bottom line. All that, for asking some simple questions about trash.

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