Green Bay Packaging’s Coated Products Operations division has implemented a strategy that not only makes environmental sense, but also financial cents.

The Green Bay Packaging Inc. Coated Products Operations division coats, laminates, and slits pressure-sensitive label materials in Titletown—also known as Green Bay, WI (It was just in February that the Green Bay Packers football team won the Super Bowl, after all). The company owns three coating facilities, 12 sales offices, and 12 distribution centers spanning three countries, yet operates privately held under its third generation of leadership in the frozen tundra of the Midwest.

Founded in 1919 as Green Bay Box Co., a maker of wooden cheese boxes, the company evolved into producing corrugated shipping containers and folding cartons in 1933 and 1942, respectively. The Coated Products Operations division formally began in the 1960s, and by the early ‘70s, the facility shifted to the manufacture of pressure-sensitive materials in paper, film, foil, and other specialty substrates.

Getting Baled Out of a Wasteful Situation

The Coated Products Operations division supplies thousands of pressure-sensitive material SKUs in different combinations of facer, adhesive, and liner in countless configurations. In an environment with all that material on the move, scrap accumulates quickly. In an effort to control and drastically diminish its waste streams, Green Bay Packaging established its first official Green Team, which also formulated a detailed environmental strategy for its recycling and reuse initiatives.

The first step involved purchasing enough balers to allocate to each recyclable waste stream, with enough capacity to accommodate the quantities of waste generated in each area of use. The balers compact material, such as brown or white fiber or pressure-sensitive film, into more manageable sizes—the smaller, the better—to simplify handling, transportation, disposal, storage, etc. If the materials are properly collected and separated, staff can easily redirect them to a partner or paying customer, certainly a more beneficial destiny than a landfill.

 The Green Team installed the balers in the coating department first because it handles the bulk of the waste streams. According to Green Bay Packaging Coater Process Technician Paul Brault, the coating department immediately bought into the environmental effort, and the recycling effort gathered steam until the slitting department was equipped with balers and ready to contribute. The office and custodian followed, then the lab.

Brault, for one, is proud to admit, “Every day, there used to be two or three dumpsters full of bags; now you’re lucky to see one because everything is baled and shipped to another facility.”

One reason for this green initiative success is employees’ dedication to recapturing as many raw materials as possible—whether it’s plastic bubble wrap, thick-walled fiber core, or corrugated roll wraps—from around the plant. Lean Coordinator Rick Henriksen explains, “Instead of paying to get rid of it, we actually recoup a dollar value from it.”

Jay Jagodinski, Green Bay Packaging’s Safety and Environmental Manager, says, “We bought enough [recycling] units to make it convenient. Instead of having one baler at one end of the plant, we now have 12 balers in the facility. One hidden efficiency is that it keeps the employees from having to dump dumpsters between six and eight times a day, allowing them to be more focused on their machines. We’ve also reduced our forklift traffic. End of shift was a rush hour—everyone was dumping in the last half hour, which has been virtually eliminated.

“The faster you give workers the tools, the better the chances that it’s going to get done,” Henriksen says. “So around each slitter, we set out more specialized cans to segregate materials, versus all of them going into one dumpster, either ending up in a horizontal baler or a landfill. We’re also going to coordinate all of our dumpsters this summer, as far as painting and putting signage on them, with the help of students.

“If things go well enough that we can eliminate the open top [dumpster], one of our next projects is to incorporate a garbage compactor to create more space. We could possibly put a loading dock in the [newly created] area. Because we used to load bales all the way on the other side of the plant, we could load them locally out of the shipping department. The bales could go right out the door.”

Team Support

When it comes to capital, Brault concurs, “There’s never any hesitation. We haven’t had to beg, to plead; it’s just there. We recently replaced all of our water heaters in the plant. Instead of spending $300 on each unit, we spent about $1,800 on extremely efficient hybrid units.” Although the company must justify purchases through cost-benefit analyses, the Green Team has received some project approvals with five- and ten-year paybacks (lighting retrofits, for instance), or without any return on investment at all.

“We’ve really taken it to the next level by investing a lot this year in those processes that make [environmental responsibility] easier. However, we’ve been doing a number of things (like recycling) for several years,” mentions Jagodinski. “In 1996, Coated Products started treating all of its process wastewater with a pre-treatment system right here. Furthermore, as far back as 1984, when the building was built, the heating system has been taking the airflow off the coaters to heat the facility.”

The company also has a giant compactor outside into which employees can dispose of materials, as opposed to the open-top dumpster. Hypothetically, Brault comments, “Rather than putting 20,000 pounds in an open top [dumpster], you could put 50,000 pounds in the compactor, so in turn, you get one pull instead of three—not only do you save gas and energy, but also landfill costs.”

Employees Own the Initiative

Says Brault, “A ton of people jumped onboard. As a team, everybody just got together and brainstormed, asked and answered questions, and made suggestions. Going green is such an easy topic to talk about because everyone wants to participate. The Green Team gets bombarded every time we go out on the floor. There are a lot of really good people—on the floor and in the office—coming up with good ideas.”

The Green Team typically updates the crews on environmental progress once a quarter by posting a report, but also rewards the efforts exerted by lining pockets with a percentage of what the company saves as a result of the recycling initiative. The Green Incentive provides a financial bonus, in addition to bettering the environment ... And it works.

Says Henriksen, “We communicate with the employees what they can get out of [the recycling program], but there are no guarantees. Waste paper prices fluctuate, and buyers come and go, so we communicate that. A lot of people still ask, though, what more they can do.”

In some cases, workers were so eager to contribute that they created home-made solutions, such as rigging up extra waste receptacles out of boxes to better separate materials, saving time before being provided better tools by the Green Team. Rumor also has it that some employees even brought recyclables in from home.

Considering that the company began using the film waste baler in August 2010, and the trim, brown, and white waste recycling just commenced in March 2010, the numbers the company recently approximated for calendar year 2010 for the total tons of material moved through balers is awe-inspiring:

  • 327 tons of brown-baled material.
  • 661 tons of clean white paper.
  • 2,600 tons of pressure-sensitive waste.

“Our production has really cranked up since the second half of last year, but at the same time, we’ve been making progress in the tons [of waste] that we’ve eliminated from going to the landfill,” Henriksen says. “We’ve been going gangbusters.”