One of the first questions that crops up in any remodeling project is: “What do we do with the old stuff?”

It was a question on Ben Poletti's mind as The Maschhoffs Inc. completed a round of remodeling projects last summer. Then, he noticed recycling crew out collecting materials.

Poletti, director of business development for the Maschhoffs, Carlyle, IL, was in the midst of developing a disposal plan for 26 tons of plastic flooring panels removed from several of the company's nurseries and farrowing rooms.

At first, Poletti assumed the panels could be reused somewhere in the company's production systems. A few panels were used as replacement flooring in other barns, but most of the panels were too worn out.

Dead End

“After about 12 months of looking for an alternative use, we came to a dead end,” Poletti recalls. “But the thought of it going to the landfill didn't sit very well.”

Research into plastics recycling led him to Stan Cope, a plastics specialist at Central Paper Stock (CPS) in St. Louis, MO, who asked the Maschhoffs to send photos and samples of the plastic flooring panels to determine if recycling was feasible.

Cope explains that most plastic used for manufacturing durable products like hog equipment is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene. Even within a single composition category like HDPE, there are many grades and qualities, and some products contain added components to improve the quality for manufacturing.

Cope says plastic products destined for recycling must be sorted by composition and carefully evaluated. Materials are subject to stringent grading classifications before they can be processed for a specific end use.

“You can't just dump it into one big pile, grind it up and use it,” he explains.

Once Cope deemed the Maschhoffs' flooring was recyclable for certain industrial applications, he offered to purchase two semi-loads.

It wasn't big money, admits Poletti. “But it would have cost significantly more to landfill it.” He says saving the $32/ton disposal cost wasn't as important to the company as the environmental impact. “We wanted to be environmental stewards, and we didn't like the idea of going to the landfill with this much volume of product.”

Ready to Recycle

To ready the flooring for recycling, crews at the Maschhoffs power-washed the panels, then stacked and tied them on pallets for shipping to CPS in late August. The pork production company absorbed the freight cost for the 65-mile trip to St. Louis, which Poletti says was easily covered by the value of the recycled material.

At CPS, the panels were weighed, shredded, and then ground into ⅜-in. particles. After washing and drying again, the plastic was ready for an end user to manufacture agricultural drainage tile and plastic pallets. “Both are excellent applications for this material,” says Cope.

Poletti is currently evaluating whether other plastic items, such as farrowing crate dividers and feed system components, can be recycled. “We are very glad to see products we've used go to another use,” he says.

Cope says a wide variety of plastic products can be considered for recycling. Recycling value varies by composition. It should be free of wood, metal hardware or other foreign debris, he adds.

For more information, contact Stan Cope, Plastics Division, Central Paper Stock, 314-521-8686 ext 106, or write stan@paperrecycler.com.