Nichols Journey to Resource Recovery

Early in 2015 when we conducted our waste audit to prepare for our LEED EB O+M recertification we calculated an 87% waste diversion rate.  This means that of all waste generated we were recycling or composting 87% of that which is a decent number.  The majority of what we recycle is corrugate, paper and poly film.  In 2015 we diverted more than 322,000 pounds of waste, the majority of this coming out of our Norton Shores distribution center which is our largest facility.  This is very important as we are located in Muskegon County and our county landfill has 5 – 8 years left before it is full according to a Waste Characterization Study that was conducted in 2015 through a MDEQ grant to the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, Muskegon County and other partners.  

The environmental savings stack up this way for just the poly films and paper we recovered and recycled:

  • 200,000 lbs of poly film: saved 37,800 gallons of oil, 1,553,000 Kwh of energy, 740 cubic yards of landfill space and 3,000 cubic yards of air pollution
  • 40,000 lbs of paper based product: saved 680,000 trees, 280,000 gallons of water, 132,000 cubic yards of landfill space, 3,160,000 gallons of oil and 2,400,000 cubic yards of air pollution

We have two pieces of equipment that allow us to bundle corrugate and poly films, therefore we are paid by our recycler and brought in nearly $3,000 in 2015 for this effort.  So why are so many of us still thinking of this as waste and not resources?  So instead of us diverting more than 322,000 of waste in 2015 we recovered 322,000 of resources that will be used to make new products.  We need to change our mindset, there is value in many of the things we are calling waste and sending to the landfill.  The resource recovery market is low right now, probably the lowest we have seen in many years but yet we still managed to earn $3,000 in 2015.

When you recycle you are recovering resources!