WEIMA partners with the City of Charlotte in a progressive recycling initiative
Photo credit: Weima Americas
Polypropylene take-out containers from the Envision Charlotte Innovation Barn, a progressive recycling initiative in Charlotte, NC, are recycled using a tabletop shredder and granulator suppliers by the equipment supplier recycling station WEIMA Americas. During the pandemic, several organizations washed and collected used containers, and Innovation Barn began to shred and recycle them on site.
WEIMA and Innovation Barn Envision Charlotte had originally equipped the plastics lab with the installation of a small hand-fed pre-shredder to shred collected take-out containers. The material was then extruded in a tabletop extruder and the product of this process was used as filament in a 3D printer. This filament has been used to create bricks that can be used in place of cinder blocks in certain applications. The aim was to show a concrete example of how one plastic product can be transformed into another useful plastic product, thus giving takeaway containers a second life as well as a purpose.
“We are thrilled to partner with WEIMA to help us advance our circular economy goals! One of our priorities is to divert as much plastic as possible from landfill and having a shredder like this helps us helps turn large volumes of #5 plastic into flakes that can be used to extrude, mold, or even turn into filament for 3D printers.We engaged the public, involved local businesses, and hosted events to collect these materials, and with the help of WEIMA, we are making a difference, said Amy Aussieker, executive director of Envision Charlotte Pandemic plastic pile-up.
In the summer of 2021, WEIMA lent the Innovation Barn a granulator with a soundproof enclosure to make their plastics lab more efficient. The WEIMA granulator was a great help in this process, as the tabletop grinder was not able to handle such a large volume. Now that the shredder is installed, stored containers are shredded into reusable flakes much more efficiently. The lab can process many more plastic containers in the facility while continuing to educate school groups and Charlotte citizens about the process of reinventing plastic waste.
Photo credit: Weima Americas
Audrey Brewer, WEIMA’s Marketing Manager for North America, said, “From the moment we entered the Innovation Barn, we knew that WEIMA absolutely wanted to help make Charlotte a greener city. Our company core values really align with what Envision Charlotte does here, and we knew we could make the process easier by placing a granulator in their plastics lab. The impact of this project will be monumental and far-reaching, even beyond Charlotte. Other cities are modeling their own recycling programs based on what Envision Charlotte is doing. We are extremely proud of this partnership and excited to see where it takes us.
Collection programs encourage proper recycling. Utilizing the city’s ubiquitous waste stream is vital to the sustainability of the circular economy. A collection program has been established for recyclable materials such as aluminum cans, plastic bottles and bubble wrap, to name a few. Nearby residents can sign up to receive unique bags that are tagged and registered for their household or business. They can fill these bags with sorted, clean materials that will be picked up as needed and delivered to the Innovation Barn for later recycling. If contaminated or unsorted materials are found in the bags, the program will contact the household and remind them of the best way to recycle their products. After these reminders, if the contamination persists, the household will be unregistered from the program. This program aims to educate the community and engage them in embracing sustainability – and the citizens of Charlotte have been very receptive to this process!
On-site collection bins allow for more product collection. In conjunction with the bag recycling program, community members are encouraged to drop off accepted recyclables 24 hours a day at one of the drop-off points. There are bright pink collection bins outside the Innovation Barn for this purpose. According to Daniel Heaton, who is on staff at Envision Charlotte, the community has been excellent so far in cleaning up and sorting these materials before they are dropped off. This makes it much easier for staff to continue the recycling process once the materials have been brought into the warehouse.