Trex grassroots program expands plastic film recycling infrastructure
Trex Company is enlisting communities and organizations to partner in its recycling efforts. The recently launched NexTrex grassroots movement provides a turnkey framework for municipalities, universities, nonprofits, and other qualifying businesses to serve as centralized drop-off locations for recycling polyethylene plastic film while earning funds for their organizations.
The grassroots movement is an expansion of the NexTrex recycling program which manufactures its composite decking from 95 percent reclaimed material including a mix of industrial wood scrap and recycled polyethylene plastic film. A large portion of the plastic film used by Trex comes from a network of more than 32,000 grocery stores and retail partners who work with Trex to responsibly recycle commercial, industrial, and post-consumer plastic film collected through warehouses and front-of-house collection. The new grassroots program extends the benefits of Trex recycling to businesses and organizations that may not meet the volume criteria for the company's commercial recycling program.
"The goals of our grassroots program are to engage more partners, establish more recycling outlets for consumer collection, and to increase overall accessibility to recycling by removing hurdles that prevent the organic growth of local plastic film recycling initiatives," says Stephanie Hicks, materials sourcing manager for Trex Company. "The volume requirements established for our large commercial recycling partners are more than some organizations can attain or handle. The grassroots movement opens the program up to smaller but similarly eco-minded groups. It also expands the program beyond traditional grocery stores and retail drop-off locations, which can be limited in their collection abilities due to store hours or collection bin capacity constraints. By forming alternative partnerships, we hope to engage new and broader audiences in recycling."
Organizations approved for participation in the NexTrex program can earn funding by serving as drop-off locations where community members can recycle their discarded plastic film packaging. Each grassroots partner is equipped with a baler, which is housed on-site for use in bundling and weighing recycled plastic material. After 20 to 40 bales are compiled (20,000 to 40,000 pounds of recycled plastic film), Trex will pick up and transport the material to its manufacturing facilities in Virginia or Nevada, where it will begin its new life as high-performance Trex composite decking. Trex then provides a rebate to its partners for the baled recyclable films making it a viable source of ongoing funding for business operations or community initiatives.
"The NexTrex program is an ideal example of a scenario where everyone wins," says Hicks. "Trex wins by sourcing valuable material for our manufacturing process. Our partners win by driving increased community awareness and earning funds for their organizations. And, the world wins when we are able to divert plastic waste from ending up in landfills and give it new life in something beautiful and sustainable like Trex decking."
Trex makes it easy to get up and running with the NexTrex program. Partners are supplied with everything they need to succeed from instructional videos and promotional materials to free recycling bins and access to professional marketing and PR support. If needed, Trex will provide upfront financing to help with the purchase and installation of industrial balers for partner locations. Rebate funds earned through material collection may be used to pay off the financing or baler costs, after which partners begin to receive full compensation for all collected film.
"Our partnership with NexTrex has been crucial in keeping LDPE film and bags in the recycling stream and out of landfills," says Lindsey Walker, market development and commercial accounts manager at Emmet County Recycling. "NexTrex has also been an outreach catalyst in the sense that other communities and programs are contacting us wanting to learn how we took a problem material – plastic bags – and created a solution via recycling with the best composite lumber manufacturer in the U.S. With good education, outreach, . . . and strong end market relationships. Plastic film and bag recycling is possible. Where there is a will there is a way."
Trex upcycles approximately 400 million pounds of plastic waste annually, nearly all of which comes from post-consumer sources such as shopping bags, newspaper sleeves, bubble wrap, and package liners along with product overwrap, shrink wrap, and stretch film used to palletize boxes, which are collected through NexTrex retail partners and other participating community groups.