CARY – AptarGroup Inc.'s environmental initiatives have others turning green with envy.
The global supplier of innovative dispensing systems for the personal care, fragrance/cosmetic, pharmaceutical, household and food/beverage markets was named one of the county's most environmentally conscientious companies by the McHenry County Department of Health.
Established in 1994, the health department's Green Awards recognize exemplary efforts and activities by residents, businesses, institutions and organizations to increase solid waste reduction and recycling in McHenry County. Recipients were chosen based upon creative programming and/or filling a niche in solid waste recycling that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
AptarGroup, winner in the business category, has made a point of looking at every facet of its waste stream – from the cafeteria to the production floor.
"We've adopted a cooperative approach to environmental sustainability in 2009," company spokesman Matt DellaMaria said. "A regional committee looked at paper, water and scrap from plastic injection molding, which we regrind and reintroduce [in the manufacturing process for things like aerosol and nonaerosol dispensing valves].
DellaMaria said energy audits at its Crystal Lake headquarters, as well as at its Cary and McHenry production facilities, have led to the use of LED lights and high-efficiency hydraulic presses that require less compressed air. That means the compressors run less and use less energy.
Hardy Duerig, material planner for Aptar's Cary campus, said the company recycles 89 percent of its waste, including paper, plastic, cardboard, waste valves and resin scraps, shrink wrap, tubing, colorant and metal shavings from the tooling room. Recyling bins throughout the buildings and a new production layout ease the process.
"The garbage bins are the smallest. The largest are for paper, plastic and cardboard," Duerig said. "Rather than throw everything into one big container and sort it out later, we want employees to review the materials at the time they discard it."
Duerig said in 2010 Aptar's Cary group recycled 1,238 tons of recycled material and 238 tons of waste to the landfill. In 2011, it recycled 1,500 tons and sent 191 tons to the landfill.
"There was a 32 percent decrease in the material sent to landfills and a 21 percent increase in the product for recycling," Duerig said. "When you look at the 1,700 tons of waste those facilities generate a year and only 200 tons went to a landfill? I think we're doing our part. ... Food products are about the only thing we don't recycle."
Aptar also is working on generating less waste. Plastic closures, used for dispensing ketchup and salad dressing from plastic bottles, boast a thinner wall that makes just as effective but lighter and less expensive. Duerig added that silicone valve also floats, making it easier to separate from other waste.
It also reduced the thickness of the shrink wrap it uses, reducing material use by one third per pallet while doing the same job.
"It's almost like we did with water bottles," Duerig said. "Spread that over a couple of million bottles and it's a huge savings."
Other energy initiatives include:
• New, energy efficient lighting in the molding room, which operates 24 hours a day. The estimated saving is $20,000 a year.
• Sensor-activated lighting in the warehouse. Rather that operating around the clock, the lights now only go on when a person is in there.
• A new, white membrane roof on the molding center in Cary replaced the traditional tar and gravel roof. Not only is it lighter, it absorbs less heat. That reduced ventilation and air-conditioning costs and reduces the company's carbon footprint by an estimated 1,400 tons over the 20-year life of the roof.
Hank Holly, site manager for the 225,000-square-foot Cary plant, believes that type of commitment will be prerequisite for doing business in the future.
"Our customers just expect us to do those kind of things," he said. "The philosophy is to ship product out to the customer or have it be recycled and reused. We don't want anything left over."
Other Green Awards recipients, by category, include:
• Institution: Through partnerships with the waste hauling industry, an electronics recycler/refurbisher and a charitable organization, the village of Algonquin provided recycling opportunities for electronic waste, alkaline batteries, traditional recyclable materials and household items.
• Organization: Bethany Lutheran Church (Green Team) Crystal Lake promoted and implemented green procurement practices that include using a paperless messaging system for their congregation, utilizing more environmentally friendly cleaning products, buying recyclable supplies and promoting a culture of solid waste stewardship.
• Individual: Lakewood Trustee Ken Santowski was recognized for providing recycling opportunities for some of the more difficult types of waste packaging materials including bubble wrap, packing peanuts and Styrofoam.