By Madeline Ferber

This June one of NRC’s new members, Flexcon, invited staff out to their 400,000 sq. ft. Columbus facility to learn all about their work, and assist them in achieving their substantial sustainability goals. Flexcon Global is a preferred provider of innovative coatings, film laminations, and functional technologies. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve certainly interacted with their work. From packaging to healthcare to transportation and even aerospace, Flexcon’s technologies have a wide range of applications. Responsible material management is a vital component of all steps in the supply chain, from design to assembly, and Flexcon has committed to doing their part in reducing waste.

Flexcon’s sustainability goals are centered around 3 pillars – 

Circularity – Their products will be designed with recyclability in mind, and by 2028 they plan to have 50% of their products  fall into their Flexcon® EcoFocus® line.

Social Sustainability – With a focus on employee safety and engagement, they plan to achieve 0 safety incidents by 2028, and at least 80% employee engagement with their sustainability goals. 

Environmental sustainability – By 2028, they plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35%, improve energy usage by 35%, and achieve a 90% diversion rate.

Within the last year, they have made significant strides towards their waste reduction goals. They’ve always recycled – diverting 20% of waste in 2021, and 25% in 2022, but in February of 2023, they began working with a company that was able to pelletize their single stream manufacturing waste and convert it into a pellet used in place of coal for industrial boilers. This change allowed them to divert an additional 26%, bringing them up to a 51% diversion rate, and keeping 386.08 tons of material out of the landfill. This translated to an impressive 2,599,865 kWh of energy, enough to power 209 homes for an entire year.

There have been challenges along the way, however. The first hurdle was a lack of proper equipment necessary for this volume of material. Initially this project used a manual baler which required additional manpower to load the baler. Purchasing an auto baler with a conveyor belt was a huge improvement in this waste reduction effort – allowing them to make bales of  mixed waste streams and ship it out in much higher densities. However, once they got the baler up and running, they ran into a new challenge. As rolls of materials are trimmed, long ribbons of material form – most of which could be diverted from their landfill waste. However, the one downside of utilizing a baler for this material has been that these incredibly long strips of material get caught up in the conveyor belt of the baler Once this problem has been resolved, they will be well on their way to a 90% diversion rate.

Creating a cross functional team across all shifts to help brainstorm and resolve issues  has been a major key to their success. The single stream baling allows team members to quickly and easily sort  the waste as it is created and avoids extra burden and confusion since they are   working with an extremely wide variety of materials. . Team members who work with the waste every day are the subject matter experts, so their input is vital for the success of diverting waste from the landfill. 

Over the past year the Columbus facility has made enormous strides towards achieving Flexcon’s goals of waste diversion. We can’t wait to see what they do next!