Blending Value-Added Service with Environmental Responsibility

Whether large or small, retail or wholesale, business owners know that customer satisfaction is a primary objective of any business model. So it was in 2010 when wholesale distributor, N.S. Farrington & Co., began accepting “bags of bags” for backhaul at the request of a single dry cleaner in North Carolina. The program has grown exponentially, with participants located in 5 states in the southeastern United States.

Background: “Bags of Bags”

N.S. Farrington & Co., a wholesale distributor of industrial laundry and dry cleaning supplies serving North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Georgia, prides itself on its “personal touch.” Their more than 1200 customers include dry cleaners, industrial launderers, hospitals, uniform rental businesses, fire stations and other consumers in need of heavy duty laundry supplies. In 2010, a single dry cleaner in North Carolina, on behalf of its retail customers, asked the company to collect and recycle plastic garment bags. Heeding this call, N.S. Farrington committed itself to constructing recycling stations and back hauling “bags of bags” after making wholesale deliveries. By 2012, N.S. Farrington was collecting film and bags from more than 150 customers across North Carolina.

A Program of Begins, and Quickly Expands

As word spread of the recycling initiative, more of N.S. Farrington’s wholesale customers wanted to offer the service to their retail customers. This led N.S. Farrington to institute a one-time nominal fee to join the program and to establish a system for consolidating the material in its warehouse and dispatching it to a local recycler.

The fee allows N.S. Farrington to provide wholesale participants with a clear plastic collection barrel (approximately 20 in. diameter), a roll of green plastic liners, two posters for storefront display, and a certificate of participation. The green bags allow retail customers and delivery/pick-up drivers to easily identify material to be recycled. To limit contamination, these bags are tagged by drivers at pick-up so that any issues can be quickly addressed and resolved. Thus far, most wholesale customers are working hard to minimize contamination.

As the company collected an ever-increasing amount of film and bags, it became clear that management needed a more robust operation. After consulting with representatives of the Flexible Film Recycling Group, N.S. Farrington decided to in-source its recycling system. The company now bales mixed film plastics– low-density polyethylene found in garment bags and high-density polyethylene in grocery bags– with a small, compressed air baler. Bales are then sold by the tractor-trailer load to an industry-leading manufacturer of outdoor living space materials, which processes the recycled plastic into its wood-alternative decking products.

Results and Future Goals

N.S. Farrington announced that its polyethylene recycling program surpassed 30 tons (60,000 pounds) in the first quarter of 2014. To that point, the program has saved over 17,000 gallons of oil and over 6,700 cubic feet of landfill space in the two years since it brought its baling system in-house. The company is currently on pace to recycle one ton of low, medium and high-density polyethylene plastic per month.

The company’s experience was that offering recycling provided a value-added service that its customers wanted, helping to build customer loyalty. And although initiating the recycling program had some up-front costs –an initial investment in the baler, recycling bins, liners, and posters – they calculate that the investment will be recouped as more participants join the program.

The polyethylene (and a similar metal wire hanger) recycling service is now available to N.S. Farrington’s wholesale customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Georgia, and the company looks forward to expanding the number of participants in those states. By increasing the number of participants and volume of plastic collected, they will increase revenue from the sale of the baled plastic, which will continue to offset the cost of the program.

N.S. Farrington is proud of the value-added service provided through its polyethylene recycling program, and of its environmental commitment to future generations. For more information, please visit www.nsfarrington.com.