Many moons ago, when I was perhaps a sophomore in high school, a small group of us students started our school’s first ever environmental and recycling club. We were going to do big things and change the world. Oh, the lofty goals of a 15 year-old idealist! I don’t know if the club lived on after we graduated, but I do know that I definitely learned a lot about how we needed to treat our world better. However, a handful of young kids weren’t going to make that much of an impact, no matter what we wished.
It takes bigger voices to truly make global changes to our world’s environment, after years of so much waste. While the world clamors for individuals to drive electric cars or ensure you’re using your recycling bin properly, it’s when corporations on a larger scale get into the game that you’ll truly see change happening. And it means so much more when it’s not just because of the bottom line but because of someone who truly cares to leave our world a better place than when we entered that.
I’ve felt great joy the past few months seeing just that. I think this wake-up was triggered while I was at Pack Expo back in September, where I saw more paper, and less plastic, being used on the packaged goods. I’ve felt long-time frustration at our world’s obsession with plastic packaging for years, so it was great to see bottle holders, snack packaging and others make the switch back to paper, which feels like old-style packaging from back in the day. There are challenges to switching from blister packs to paper, but it’s worth the time and investment to retrofit machinery, noted PMMI (Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute) in a 2022 report.
Manufacturers who are focusing on making what’s old new again will make the biggest impact. igus Inc., a maker of advanced motion plastics, recognizes more than anyone that their business could be seen as NOT sustainable. But they have started more innovative programs to make what is old new again and they’re worth talking about. The company is encouraging its customers to recycle their used cable and hose carriers, with its chainge program (they’ll take other manufacturers’ e-chains as well). They’ve then created new e-chains from these materials, that test as durable as ever. They then have started a program designing urban-use bicycles made of recycled plastics, to again, make something old, new again.
Another recent company I learned is doing something similar is local to me here in Avon, Ohio. canvus is a manufacturer of products made from wind turbine blades. So instead of disposing of retired turbine blades — which are difficult to recycle due to their size and fiberglass materials — they’re being upcycled into benches, planters and picnic tables for public spaces. canvus can upcycle 100% of the blade into something new. Stay tuned for more about this small company doing great things from Rachael Pasini, who visited their facility and will write a story about their efforts in our sister publication, Design World.
Fluid power has always been great at making what’s old is new again with the ability to repair and rebuild pumps and cylinders in particular. Truly we are stewards of the circular economy, so let’s keep setting that example and continue to find ways to reduce industrial waste through reuse and recycling.
No longer are we environmentalists; the new word is sustainable — but it all means the same thing. It’s time to take the “reduce, reuse, recycle,” tag lines my children have been learning since toddlerhood and make it part of our everyday lives. Let’s keep making what’s old, new again.
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