Paul Benvenuti walks the NPE 2015 show floor in Orlando with purpose. Keep up or be left behind, because this man has a job to do this week, and he’s not slowing down.
Benvenuti typically works in purchasing and sales at Commercial Plastic Recycling Inc. in Tampa, but this week he’s the tip of the spear on CPR’s efforts to gather every bit of plastic scrap they can get their hands on at the show.
Blue totes. Clear bottle preforms. Green pipe elbows. Pink detergent bottle caps. Black trays. Small white bottles. Medium white bottles. Large white bottles.aaaa
And then there’s the caps. So many caps. Too many to count. Twenty five or so to a big handful. And who knows how many handfuls are in one of those big brown cardboard boxes called gaylords. Certainly hundreds of thousands of caps by the end of the week, maybe millions. Probably millions.
It’s CPR’s job to get all of those plastic pieces and parts off of the show floor and processed at its facility about 70 miles away.
“As you can see it’s constant motion,” Benvenuti said as he shot down one of the aisles in the West Hall of the Orange County Convention Center.
“Our people here have really stepped up. Very proud our reps that came in from out of town. We’ve had some family, because this is a family company, and our warehouse guys have come in and the temps have really stepped up,” he said.
CPR (Booth S35067) has more than 30 workers at the Convention Center this week, many of them who are full-time employees of the company. The rest are temporary staff hired for the show.
One of those folks is Joshua Channell, who is in purchasing and sales for CPR’s Millwood, W.Va., location.
He’s managing one portion of the floor in the West Hall and is responsible for seeing that products made from machines in nine booths are removed.
“We try to stay out of their [exhibitors’] way and stay out of sight and get the material out,” said Channell, who is typically supervising five to seven people at any one time. “The last thing they want are products falling on the floor because they don’t have containers to put them in.”
Channell, like Benvenuti, spends much of his time walking from station to station, making sure all is right. Miles and miles every day, they figured.
“If we were doing this for breast cancer, we would be raising a lot of money,” Benvenuti joked.
Much of the scrap is loaded into large plastic bins actually designed for use by fruit pickers. Use of the bins, made by Macro Plastics Inc., was donated by Highland-Exchange Service Cooperative, or HESCO, a customer that recycles plastics through CPR.
These containers are on wheeled dollies that allow CPR workers to easily and quickly push the scrap to the back of the building where colleagues take over. Some scrap also comes in on push carts.
It’s in the back where other workers empty those large containers into even larger gaylords, making sure resin types are not mingled. Those gaylords are then then loaded into the tractor-trailers that will make their way to Tampa.
Plastic scrap from the show is good stuff, according to CPR.
“It’s highly desirable. It’s clean, post-industrial. It typically doesn’t have
labels. It typically doesn’t have any contamination. So it’s a real clean stream for somebody in the U.S. looking for recycled content of good clean material,” company President Ben Benvenuti said.
With so much plastic coming off of the show floor every day, CPR is challenged to make sure resins do not contaminate each other on their way to the company’s grinding facility. That’s where five of nine grinders are dedicated to handling NPE material this week.
“Because we are in the recycling business, we are very conscious of keeping the scrap stream as clean as possible,” Ben Benvenuti said.
CPR succeeds Maine Plastics as the recycler at the triennial NPE show. Maine Plastics had those duties from 2000 to 2012, but went out of business last year.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the material being handled this week involve the commodity grades of plastics, including PET, high density polyethylene and polypropylene.
“That is really valuable material. It would be inexcusable to go to the landfill,” said Kim Holmes, senior director of recycling and sustainability at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the show’s owner. “There’s going to be a lot of good scrap material coming out of the show.”
As director of trade show operations for SPI, Lori Campbell has worked with CPR leading up to the show.
She said participation in the recycling program has increased since the last show in 2012 when 41 companies signed up for recycling services offered through the show.
About 75 are on board this time around, Paul Benvenuti said, including about 10 firms that signed up within the last week or so.
“CPR has worked really hard. We’ve worked together to encourage people to participate in the program,” Campbell said. “We’ve changed some of the dynamics of what we’ve done in the past as an organization.” That includes those efforts to reduce the cost to participate.
Some companies, she said, also are managing their own plastics this week from the show floor. “It’s a proprietary material or they want to hold on to it or take it back to the shop and they resell it because it has value,” Campbell said.
Rick Love, also in purchasing and sales for CPR in Tampa, has been acting as Paul Benvenuti’s right-hand man these days, solving problems and helping make sure everything that needs to get done gets done.
“It’s been a lot of opportunity to challenge ourselves, and so far, we’ve risen to all those that have come up,” he said while standing at the loading dock.
“A lot of audibles being called. You’ve got to improvise and adapt,” Benvenuti said. “That’s what we’ve been doing.”
Back at the loading dock for door number 12 at the rear of the West Hall, CPR workers organize the plastics by resin type and fill the big cardboard boxes. From there, they are loaded into tractor-trailers for the journey to Tampa. It’s a busy place.
Benvenuti said recycling is taking a higher profile at this NPE as compared to previous years.
“It’s a lot more visible this year. It’s a challenge because when you are visible, you’ve got to look good. But it’s also an opportunity because now people are seeing us and understanding that’s somebody is actually doing this in the state of Florida,” he said.
“SPI has an internal goal to make this the greenest NPE ever. We’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to help them facilitate that goal,” he said.