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Charlotte Green Supply Chain: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

July 30, 2010 - 10:59am



Three years ago at Sacred Heart grade school in Norfolk, Neb., efforts to recycle were grim.

"When I got here, we had no paper recycling program," says Troy Berryman, who is entering his sixth year as principal at Sacred Heart. "A couple years prior, we had a guy park a semi-truck in the parking lot for people to recycle paper."

But Berryman says this system did not work out well, as the truck was often locked and papers would be left to blow around in the wind or get wet with rain. Knowing that something must be done, he began to look into the local GreenFiber's Community Paper Recycling Program.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based insulation manufacturer had an answer for the school system that continues to work today. As a participant in the community program, the Norfolk school now recycles an average of 12 tons of paper per month via five large bins that are emptied by GreenFiber twice a week.

From paper recycling to insulation

What works in Norfolk, Neb. is working elsewhere.

Each year, GreenFiber diverts about 350,000 tons of paper from landfills through its Community Paper Recycling Program and its purchase of pre- and post-consumer paper materials, says Harold Pinkston, GreenFiber's director of marketing.

The company uses this recycled paper to manufacture natural cellulose insulation and related weatherization products that are distributed at its locations across the country, representing GreenFiber's place in Charlotte's residential retrofit supply chain.

Through this recycling and manufacturing process, GreenFiber has proven that community involvement can be a productive way to receive materials while reducing waste.

"The goal of the community program is to collect paper fibers in close proximity to the plant, which helps keep our overall paper costs down," says Meghann Buresh, recycling coordinator of GreenFiber in Norfolk. "Over the past five years, the plant has formed great partnerships via the community recycling program."

Even at the two locations without community programs, GreenFiber works with the counties to ensure that paper is not wasted.  In Charlotte, for example, the manufacturing plant is conveniently located next to Charlotte-Mecklenburg County's recycling center and paper fibers are received from the county.

Recycling paper turns to cash

GreenFiber's insulation products are sold to contractors and businesses – such as Home Depot, Lowe's and Menards – for use in both residential and commercial energy retrofits.

And for those in the Community Paper Recycling Program partnership, participants such as Sacred Heart can earn $20 per each ton of paper recycled.  For the Norfolk, Neb., school, this eases the strain on the budget. Berryman says the school has earned an average of $235 per month for the past four months of recycling.

"It's good for GreenFiber, good for our environment and good for our kids to learn how to recycle," says Berryman. "It also helps our cost overrun on our yearbooks. We try not to jab the parents too much; we don't charge quite enough. So this comes back to the parents as well."