While consumer packaging waste has been a key focus over the last decade, commercial and industrial packaging is being scrutinized now more than ever. Sustainability has become an important goal for businesses striving for minimal environmental impact, and packaging producers are responding.

Packaging can be more sustainable by applying the principles of product stewardship. This means eliminating toxic constituents, using less material, making packaging reusable, using recycled content and making it readily recyclable.

Roll packaging is no exception, and sustainability is an area where Badger Plug has shined throughout its 85 years in business – from manufacturing to finished products.

Thirty years ago, the company initiated a recycling program to take back and recycle roll packaging products. Recycled products have since grown to be a significant part of its product lineup. It has also become a source of savings to customers of roll protection products and a source of income for recycling participants. Without a doubt, it has been a significant success in removing tons of packaging products from the country’s waste stream.

A Passion for Conservation

Badger Plug’s roll suspension and protection products include an extensive array of wood, metal and plastic products. According to national sales manager Tom Duffy, 70 percent of the company’s plastic core plugs already are produced using regrind plastic resins. Regrind plastic plugs are less expensive and are perfect for many applications, though some applications require or demand virgin plastic plugs.

Interestingly, Badger Plug has had a long history of recycling scrap plastic, metal, wood and even sawdust generated during manufacturing. The company took its passion for environmental conservation to a new level in 1984 by offering to recycle packaging components.

“The recycling program started out accepting a limited list of roll protection products at company headquarters in Greenville, Wisconsin,” Duffy says. “At first, it was plastic suspension plugs and wood endboards. The idea was to help companies significantly reduce their waste footprint through recycling. Right away we had a number of companies participating.” 

The Goal of Sustainability

The company’s recycling program was also designed to be sustainable. Quality packaging components could be resold at reduced prices. This provided revenue to sustain the recycling operation, a financial return to the recycling customer, and a cost savings to customers who willingly purchased recycled components. Consequently, these products were not used just once and then diverted to a landfill. 

New life for used components starts with inspection and, if necessary, are re-manufactured before sale. Only clean, undamaged end boards are retained. Plastic sleeve plugs are inspected for integrity. Recycled pallets are either resold or, if damaged, they are refurbished or recycled as wood scrap.

As the recycling program started to take off at its headquarters, the company has subsequently added more regional recycling centers. Shorter distances between converters and a recycling center help reduce shipping costs for participating companies.

The quality of recycled product is critical. Some components simply do not pass inspection. Those that don’t are redirected to third-party recyclers to keep them out of the waste stream.

Just as with consumer recycling programs, the industrial recycling community needs to be educated on what can be recycled. Badger Plug coaches participants through the standards that recycled materials must meet in order for recyclers to be paid.

Significant Demand

“There are plenty of companies who want to buy recycled products,” says Duffy. “Supply for our recycled components is less than the demand. Recycled components can save customers significant dollars compared to new product. Consequently, recycled products don’t stick around very long.”

 Industry data continues to indicate a growing interest among companies to reduce their waste streams. Badger Plug seems to have found the formula to effectively tap that trend and others in the packaging industry are sure to follow suit in the years to come.

Presently, Badger Plug recycles over 50 million pounds of packaging components on an annual basis.

Badger Plug- (920) 757-7300; www.badgerplug.com