Show Me the Money in EPS
Fellow conservationist, renewable energy consultant, Ron Link journeyed from his office in Buffalo, NY to Eastlake, Ohio to visit one of the growing successful styrofoam recycling plants in the county. There polystyrene recycling provides a solution rather than a problem.
Buckeye Industries Visit Was Positive, By Ron Link
In an effort to learn more about how styrofoam recycling works, I traveled to Eastlake, Ohio Friday October 11, 2013. The day was beautiful and the sun shone brightly without any cloud in the deep blue sky.
In my research for a project on recycling EPS in the DC Metro region came upon Buckeye Industries. I arranged a tour of their styrofoam and cardboard recycling facility in Eastlake to see how it was done. Buckeye Industries has three locations in the area it serves, which is metropolitan Cleveland.
I walked into the facility and there I was greeted by plant manager, Chris Behm. The warehouse not enormous about the size to three car garage bays. Chris wasn’t even sure how many square feet, but what I saw every bit of it was in use including a small office at the front and a modest but neat break-room. As Chris and I moved towards the center of the building, I noted the high ceilings with countless cardboard boxes filled with #4 & #6 styrofoam and plastic CD cases.
I passed by several employees busy at work sorting the styrofoam and removing all foreign debris from the piles. Items like tape, staples and tacs must be removed to protect the integrity of the final product. I was impressed with the speed and efficiency these properly trained recyclers possessed. Their were machines, of course, the kind of machines used for bailing and condensing cardboard and, of course, styrofoam. We continued into another room where pallets were aligned along the far wall, each of them stacked high with heavy with condensed blocks of styrofoam. It was a sight to see! I could not believe the weight of these pallets. Chris told me the best “pack” achieved was a pallet stacked neatly with 1300 lbs of styrofoam. When condensed, if done well, the packed styrofoam was very dense. Wow! Was all I could come up with. While he guided my tour, Chris explained to me that Buckeye used “high functioning disabled employees.” In fact, Buckeye Industries was working along with New Avenues to Independence, an organization which served the community of persons with disabilities since it was founded in 1952. Buckeye Industries with its knack for such affiliations has is integrated its service into the three county metro Cleveland area. They possess many successful partnerships with businesses, schools and hospitals.
I learned Buckeye Industries only began it styrofoam recycling operation in 2010. With very little fanfare, and no truck, their modest beginning has managed to grow to the point today where Buckeye today employs 17 persons and recycles more than a ton and a half of styrofoam each week, operating only five days, Monday thru Friday, from 9 AM to 3 PM. The business has been strong and has operated through word of mouth. The business has one man in sales. Today there are 14 businesses that supply used styrofoam and several businesses that buy recycled styrofoam for repurposed products like picture frames and crown molding.
Chris mentioned that “demand was strong.” He mentioned that residents are always wanting to know if they could bring their styrofoam down to the facility or if he might send someone to pick it up curbside. He told me he was getting ready to hire three more people.
One important thing Chris noted nearing the end of the tour was that the quality of the condensed styrofoam after its recycling is key, no commingled food stuff. Chris called high quality for the secondary market was vital. Businesses interested in purchasing recycled styrofoam WANTED Buckeye Industries product and many were willing to pay a good price for it.
So the visit encouraged me. I intend to visit again soon to learn more about the business structure. Stay tuned.
For more information on Buckeye Industries go to