Waste Today Magazine
August 3, 2017
The Carlex aftermarket distribution center in Lebanon, Tennessee, created a team through a private-public partnership to divert its waste from landfill.
By Emily Laffey
The Carlex aftermarket distribution center in Lebanon, Tennessee, appears to be just like any other large storage and logistics building, but what happened there in 2016 is anything but business as usual. Its Manager Lynda Hogue often finds herself walking the line between job responsibilities and environmental sustainability.
Hogue has an extensive background and a deep passion for her career in supply chain management and logistics. “I love what I do,” she says. “Supply chain is a job where every day is different. It is challenging and it is fun. I can pick what’s remarkably important to me and integrate it into the job,” Hogue adds.
She is no stranger to positive innovation. Hogue’s journey starts in California, where she worked for Sola Optical in Petaluma for 16 years. In the early 1980s, during the total quality management (TQM) movement, Hogue oversaw designing and employing a preferred supplier program for the company.
She explains that growing up in California, one naturally thinks of the environment and the surroundings, whether at home or in the office. Hogue brings her passion about her job and the environment while introducing sustainability and corporate social responsibility into the Carlex culture.
“I think we all have a responsibility to ourselves to care. It’s something that is truly important,” she says. “We can all take action and contribute something. When you work together, it’s truly not that hard to make a difference.”
STEERING IN A NEW DIRECTION
Carlex specializes in automotive replacement glass and produces original equipment glass, such as laminated windshields and performance backlights.
A product like automotive glass, however, requires special packaging during storage and transport. Until 2016, the thousands of custom wooden crates were used once before heading to the landfill. When facilitating production and logistic activities, waste streams always pose a challenge.
Carlex’s array of products intensifies this issue. The plant generates a multitude of crates, cardboard, wood pallets, racks, packaging materials and more from the manufacturing and distribution processes. In addition, millions of pieces of glass per day are transported and distributed.
Carlex’s renewable results:
- 2015: 515 tons of waste sent to the landfill
- 2016: 687 tons of waste wood sent to the Lebanon downdraft gasification plant for fuel; 42 tons sent to the landfill after Rockwood Recycling harvests all recyclables
- May 2017: Less than 10 percent of all Carlex waste is sent to the landfill
UPDATE: Carlex projects its 2017 diversion to the landfill to reach 712 tons by the end of the year.
Now back to the original article:
In 2015, the company’s disposal system included two compactors and three 40-yard debris bins, one of which was designated to recyclables. More than 515 tons of material were sent to the landfill, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of discarded materials were recyclable.
When approached about the issue, the former vendor showed no interest in seeking more ecofriendly solutions. Hogue knew Carlex wasn’t using sustainable disposal practices effectively, and it became a top priority of hers to reduce this waste deficit through an alternative method.
As she began the search for the most sustainable waste options for the company, the city of Lebanon was taking its first steps in the direction of a zero waste goal. The timing was optimal—Lebanon’s waste gasification facility was nearing completion and was going to need a lot of feedstock.
This downdraft gasification plant, designed and built by Aries Clean Energy (formerly PHG Energy), Nashville, Tennessee, would convert waste wood, tires and sewer sludge into a synthetic gas that would generate electricity for the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The plant is projected to divert more than 8,000 tons of waste from the landfill annually. At full capacity, it will use 64 tons of feedstock per day.
Hogue quickly zeroed in on finding a way to divert her company’s wood waste to that plant.
PARTNERSHIPS PAVE THE WAY
Lebanon-based Rockwood Recycling has played a key role in the city’s gasification plant all the way back to its initial ground breaking. In 2014, a massive hailstorm hit the city, resulting in a 50,000-pound pile of roofing shingles. The company at the time was operating under the name of Ground Up Recycling and focused on shingles recycling. This caught the Lebanon mayor’s attention.
“The mayor witnessed how we utilized sustainable solutions to turn a problem into a good thing, and in return then asked for our insight on the gasification plant, which we viewed as an extremely beneficial opportunity,” Lincoln Young, president of Rockwood Recycling, says.
A critical element of the creation of this public-private partnership with the city is that Rockwood assumes all responsibility for collecting, transporting and preparing feedstock for the plant. It also receives discarded tires from Wilson County officials. This allows the county county to cut hauling costs.
From a nearby collection yard, Rockwood stores and delivers shipped wood and tires for the plant’s fuel.
Hogue wasted no time in contacting Young about her wood waste in the parking lot. Their collaboration switched the entire dynamic of Carlex’s waste minimization efforts.
Now 95 percent of Carlex’s discarded remains are recycled. In return for Carlex’s large involvement, Rockwood grants it a discount on cardboard disposal. The partnership allows 53-foot trailers to be transported from Carlex to the Rockwood facility, where Rockwood sorts and recycles the material streams.
Currently, Carlex has been shipping approximately two trailers of recyclables per day but it had expected to ship three to four trailers per day during its busy summer season. Keeping with the best interest of the community of Lebanon, Hogue uses the city of Lebanon’s shuttle drivers to deliver the trailers during idle time. This eliminates another vendor.
Lebanon, Tennessee, was hit with a massive hail storm in 2014, resulting in a 50,000-pound pile of damaged roofing shingles. After the storm, the shingles were temporarily stored in a large area in the center of the city. The shingles traditionally are difficult to recycle and end up in the local landfills. A local company called Ground Up Recycling acquired the debris and started a shingle grinding business. The positive impact from the shingle recycling operation caught the attention of former Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, who was considering acquiring a downdraft gasification system for the city.
No one would have guessed that three years later, 52,000 tons of waste would be diverted from the landfill because of the shingle recycling business.
In August 2016, Rockwood Recycling emerged as an expansion of Ground Up Recycling when it entered into a public-private partnership with the city for the gasification plant. The new company’s essential purpose is processing wood waste and tires. In the past seven months, Rockwood has repurposed 5,000 tons of renewable materials to be used as feedstock for Lebanon’s gasification plant.
Rockwood Recycling doesn’t landfill anything, devising an end source for all waste streams, with the exception of the plastic from roofing companies. The majority of its business comes from companies in the area. Young explains the companies save 20 to 50 percent from their current disposal methods.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
When Hogue began at Carlex, she had no sustainability plan. Hogue developed a goal for the company and presented it to her supervisors.
She says her five executive leaders were reluctant to change, and this was one of the largest challenges Hogue faced in integrating an energy initiative into the plan.
“Change is hard; change is hard for everyone,” she says. “You have to make it something that matters to them.”
It is hard to not notice, however, when a location goes from hundreds of tons to the landfill to less than 50 tons of waste to the same landfill in a year’s time.
Carlex executives recently visited the distribution center, Rockwood and the gasification plant.
Hogue and her team have become a model for other Carlex locations.
Working with Rockwood results in new benefits, especially pertaining to the overall quality of living within the community. More than half the Carlex team live in Wilson County, where nearby landfills are quickly filling. By participating in a public-private partnership with the city, the company disperses money right back into Wilson County’s economy, alluding again to the circular economy concept.
By educating the team and connecting the value of the plan to the individuals, Hogue’s concept was embraced by co-workers and the union, setting a shared pride in the level of Carlex’s corporate social responsibility and raising the bar for the company’s culture.
Emily Laffey is a Middle Tennessee State University intern for Aries Clean Energy, Nashville, Tennessee.