With the “close” of China to waste imports, iSustain saw the need to develop a sorting program in the United States.
China offers a ready workforce of low-cost labor to sort recyclables but, with the country’s waste import ban, scrap materials can no longer be sent there. This has resulted in waste piling up at domestic processing facilities where there is limited space to store items and curbside recycling programs across the US scaling back their efforts to collect household recyclables. More and more waste is ending up in landfills where it gets mixed with organic material and buried rather than sorted for transformation into new consumer products.
Leveraging Correctional Institution Labor To Keep It Domestic
There are so many manufacturing facilities here in the United States generating plastic scrap streams that are domestically unrecyclable. In most cases, the reason for this is that the scrap they generate during production is a calamity of different parts made of different resins all mixed together and collected into one stream. This type of stream can only have value (and another life) if it is sorted and segregated first.
Historically, the only cost-effective way to do that was to send the material overseas to China. China offers a ready workforce of low-cost labor to sort recyclables, but with the country’s waste import ban, scrap materials can no longer be sent there. Additionally, the countries that have tried to step in to fill the void are only able to handle a fraction of the overall tonnage China once did. All of this has resulted in waste piling up and in many cases, ending up in landfills.
Unlike overseas, the labor costs here in the United States are too high to make a business case for hand segregating these materials domestically. Additionally, due to the unique nature of many of these streams, automation is not an option. Upset by the thought of all these materials ending up in landfills, iSustain was determined to develop a solution.
Finding a Creative Solution
Recognizing that the expense of it was the main problem associated with processing these materials here, iSustain developed a creative and cost-effective solution through the use of correctional inmate labor. Selected inmates work to sort and segregate recyclables by resin and form so that they can be reprocessed domestically and kept out of landfills.
At the same time, the program helps to rehabilitate these correctional inmates by teaching them new skills and accountability. It is well recognized that inmates who have the opportunity to engage in work programs have an easier time getting work once they are released. The self-esteem and fulfillment that can come from working hard plays a big role in lessening criminal behavior. So not only does the solution help conserve landfill space, it rehabilitates.
How It Works
A current example of one of the many streams processed through the correctional program comes from the highly automated and fast-paced world of auto manufacturing, where the collection area for recyclables is limited. This limited space causes multiple materials to get collected and mixed into one box. These boxes typically come to us containing a mix of hoses, zip ties, and trash. The inmates segregate the hoses by Nylon 6, 66, and 12, the zip ties by Nylon or Polypropylene, and the trash is trashed. iSustain then recycles these materials to be further processed and reused in the U.S.
Not only can iSustain segregate materials, but we can also cut and prep materials for recycling too. We currently receive baled Nylon mail bags that are contaminated and unrecyclable as is. Once we remove the contaminants (metal grommets, plastic PVC labels, and zip ties) the material becomes solely Nylon and can effectively be recycled.
Through the use of the inmate labor program, iSustain can now provide a turnkey program to purchase, pick up, segregate, and recycle high-value recyclables that would have otherwise been landfilled.
A Win-Win Solution that Helps Americans Remain Competitive
With domestic companies struggling to decide what to do in light of China’s actions, solutions are important. Whether giving waste products a new life, allowing inmates the chance to contribute to society or providing domestic companies more self-sustainability, this solution is a real Win-Win!
Putting iSustain to Work for Your Organization
iSustain works tirelessly for our clients developing and implementing customized recycling solutions to maximize scrap value and environmental responsibility
To learn more about iSustain’s services and talk about a tailored solution to your unique situation, call (423) 668-0111, email [email protected] or leave a message on our website, https://isustainrecycling.com.