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How to Improve Stretch Wrap Recovery in the Warehouse and Distribution Center

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Many firms enjoy the feeling of environmental responsibility and financial rewards that come from recycling low density polyethylene (LLPE), commonly known as plastic stretch wrap. While recycling is the right thing to do for business and environmental purposes, it might be prudent to ask if companies are really as environmentally responsible as they might believe and if perhaps they are missing out on the biggest part of their recycling paycheck?

Oftentimes, recyclable wrap ends up in the garbage container which goes to landfills, or contaminants end up in the plastic wrap recycling bin, making it non-recyclable. A key challenge for businesses is to recover as much recyclable material as possible through recovery and accurately streaming materials into the correct collecting bins.

Here are some tips to make sure that companies get the most out of their plastic recycling efforts:

Locate a Recycling Firm that will Buy Soft Plastic Scrap

Rick LeBlanc, licensed to About.com

It goes without saying that in order to recover wrap, a relationship must be established with a recycler to take it. Many recyclers are implementing soft plastic monthly pickups. For smaller volume pickups there may be a fee but if volume generated warrants the installation of a baler, there are many recycling firms that will pickup and reimburse for baled plastic.

Determine Your Recovery Rate

For operations with existing wrap recycling programs, calculate the total recycling opportunity versus what is currently recycling to see how good of a job your group is actually doing. This likely would include an estimate of wrap removed from pallets at your location compared to actual recovery. It could also include an estimate of the proportion of wrap sent to regular customers that was recovered, if a reverse logistics program is in place.

Make Wrap Recycling an Operational Goal

Make plastic recycling one of your operational goals. Set recovery goals, supervise and encourage. Make recycling part of the conversation at crew meetings, employee reviews and other communications. Increasingly, employees want to act environmentally responsibly.

Make Plastic Wrap Recycling Easy

Rick LeBlanc, licensed to About.com

Create opportunities for wrap to be recycled by making it easy. Clear signage and conveniently located, color coded recycling bins can help employees to more accurately place the scrap. Ensure that there are also adequate receptacles for other residuals, to avoid co-mingling of wrap with other scrap materials.

Take Steps to Minimize Contaminants

Rick LeBlanc, licensed to About.com

Clear wrap holds higher value. Residual labels reduce the value of the wrap, as do other contaminants such as strapping and tape. Employees should remove labels before recycling. If labels are applied to incoming or outbound wrapped pallets, personnel should be encouraged to place the label directly onto the box rather than to the wrap, when feasible. Consider working with suppliers to promote the use of clear wrap and your own employees to remove labels before recycling.

Maintain Observations of Recycling Activities in the Warehouse

Peer and supervisory observations can help spot when employees are placing wrap in the wrong receptacle, and challenge them to consistently make the right choice. If you see clean wrap disposed in the garbage, or garbage placed in the wrap container, then take the necessary steps to get it right, whether the issue is poor recycling bin location, training, or complacency. A good place to monitor the recycled material is when it is being fed into the baler. Using a clear bag to accumulate wrap can help the bale operator better identify any foreign materials placed in the bag with the recycled wrap.

Managing a Multiple Location Recycling Program

Rick LeBlanc, licensed to About.com

Where there are limited locations of stretch wrap accumulation, recovery will be more easily achieved than if recovery locations are scattered across a large distribution center, or even more challengingly, if wrap and is returned from perhaps hundreds of retail customers. Such programs require attention to effective communication and collaborative execution in order to succeed.

Post Results and Strive for Improvement

Let team members know how good of a job they are doing in recovering wrap, both in terms of volume and quality. Challenge them to find ways to improve. By tracking potential and actual recovery as well as material quality, businesses can help drive improved recovery rates for plastic wrap, and generate extra revenue in the process.  

Compare prices on plastic wrap.

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