‘Greening’ the industry: Reel recycling initiatives target waste reduction

June 1, 2008
In a drive to bolster environmental responsibility within the wire and cable industry, CommScope (www.commscope.com) has expanded its cable reel recycling program...

In a drive to bolster environmental responsibility within the wire and cable industry, CommScope (www.commscope.com) has expanded its cablereel recycling program to customers of Andrew Wireless Solutions (www.andrew.com), the company’s division that specializes in communications systems and products.

In a similarly ‘green’ effort, Sonoco’s Wire and Cable Reels division (www.sonoco.com) has begun offering a sustainability consulting service, dubbed Sonoco Sustainability Solutions (S3).

CommScope’s Andrew Reel Recycling Program is an effort to reduce the waste of reels on which Andrew’sHELIAX cables are shipped. To encourage participation, Andrew has begun charging customers for reels used for shipping the HELIAX cables. These charges will be partially or completely reimbursed to customers who participate in the Reel Recycling Program, depending on the condition of the reels when returned. Reels returned in excellent condition may possibly be awarded reimbursement above the initial charge.

Cable reels, made of mostly high-grade wood, are used in shipping and storing transmission line cables, with sizes ranging as large as 3.5 meters indiameter. Andrew maintains that via the program, wireless cable customers will realize additional benefits besides just environmental goodwill. The company notes that, in the absence of recycling programs, cable installers usually break down the wooden reels and either burn or dispose of them in landfills. By participating in the Reel Recycling Program, the company contends that time andlabor can be reduced, as installers no longer need perform this function. In addition, customers can avoid beingadditionally charged for reel disposal or landfill fees by local waste management firms.

“We expect the Reel Recycling Program to drive a higher level of participation and have a far greater environmental impact than the smaller scale reel recovery program Andrew previously had in place,” comments Stan Catey, group vice president and general manager of cable products.

The program will be launched in the U.S. and in Western Europe this year. It is currently available in Spain, with the U.S. rollout set for this month, to be followed by additional European nations. Andrew expects to establish five recycling centers across the U.S. to which cable reels can be returned, and hopes to recycle more than 15,000 reels in the continental U.S. alone during the first year.

For its part, Sonoco Wire and Cable Reels says its S3 sustainability consulting service identifies ways for manufac-turers and distributors of wire andcable to reduce waste materials going to landfills by finding alternative uses for afacility’s previously unrecycled wastes. The company maintains that the program can increase profitability “by converting waste streams into revenue streams.”

S3 is a service of Sonoco’s recyclingdivision, Sonoco Recycling, which serves the packaging industry. Through the program, Sonoco’s waste reduction experts audit a customer’s location to review its existing waste handling practices. A tailored program is then developed to provide significant savings by reducing waste hauling charges and landfill fees.

Sonoco says the service may also provide incremental income through thesale of previously landfilled materials, and by finding alternate uses for certain wastes. Finally, the service reports productivity improvements in both financial savings and environmental benefits.

“S3 initially was developed to improve the productivity of Sonoco plants by reducing waste materials going tolandfill,” explains Randy Lusk, general manager, Sonoco Wire and Cable Reels. “We were so pleased with the results that we experimented and partnered with some customers’ locations. The result was that this service provided significant productivity savings, along with new revenue sources and environmental benefits.”

Georgia-based wire and cable manufacturer Southwire (www.southwire.com) recently signed on as an S3 customer. “The goal of S3 is zero landfill waste,” remarks Cynthia Brooks, the manufacturer’s Green Initiatives manager. “We’re really looking forward to identifying ways we can reduce our landfill waste, help the environment, and possibly even positively impact our top line. This is a really exciting opportunity for creating value by enhancing our current processes.”

Myles Cohen, vice president and general manager of Sonoco Recycling,acknowledges that while most wire and cable manufacturers already haveactive recycling programs, they mayalso identify additional opportunities through S3. “Because Sonoco has an extensive knowledge of the industrial and consumer packaging industries, and expertise in recycling, we can findalternative recycling methods for wastes previously believed unrecyclable,” maintains Cohen. “Our S3 team is pleased toapply its skills in this area to the wireand cable manufacturing industry.”

Sonoco claims that, in 2007, it’s Wire and Cable Reels division’s reel recycling program helped North American wire and cable manufacturers and distributors save approximately 50,000 trees and $6 million in disposal costs, by recycling 150,000 wire and cable reels for 1,200 customers in 641 cities in the contiguous U.S. and Canada.

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