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Green Biz 2.0: NextLife Develops 100% Recycled Pallet for Major Retailer
NextLife Launches 100% Recycled Plastic Pallet: NextLife helps retailers turn their plastic waste into products they either use or sell; it has designed a new plastic pallet made entirely from 100% post-consumer waste.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 11/1/2008
Imagine the next generation of recycling where the waste stream of major companies is turned directly into high-end products that a company uses in its operations or sells directly to customers. This would allow a company to directly market and control its waste stream instead of sending off its material to go into some generic product. That is the vision of NextLife, an environmental consulting and green product development organization.
Sean Kerrigan, vice president of marketing and corporate development for NextLife, said, “We are working with one of the largest retailers in the country. We are recycling their waste into a pallet that will be used in their operations.”
Kerrigan would not identify the retailer although he did say the design was in the retail store testing stage, and could soon be part of a larger commitment to begin replacing some existing wooden pallets. These pallets will be used to downstream directly to retail stores.
The process starts with the reclamation of plastic waste including bags, hangers, stretch wrap and other plastic material from retail distribution centers.
The resin is then sent to a plastics manufacturer that works with NextLife to produce the pallet. NextLife provides the intellectual capability and technical services used to formulate and market these green products for major corporations, especially retailers.
The NextLife pallet is injection molded into a one-piece plastic pallet. By using recycled resin, NextLife cuts the cost of the material used to make the pallet. Kerrigan indicated that
NextLife is looking for more retail partners, and Mountain Valley Recycling is always looking for more sources of recycled material. Generally,
“This is just the jumping off point for us in terms of pallet manufacturing,” said Sean. NextLife can mass produce this 48x40 pallet and sell it to a wide variety of customers. The company already has a strong connection with the beverage industry.
The existing pallet is not designed to be used with perishables. But NextLife is looking into a pallet that would meet food-grade requirements.
Not all green products are created the same according to Kerrigan. He said, “There are a lot of people out there who are saying that they are using recycled resins. But a lot of it is post industrial plastic, which wasn’t really going to make its way to landfills. We are taking waste out of landfills and are recycling them and putting them back into products.”
NextLife is trying to change common perceptions about recycling. Thomas J. Basile, a consultant for NextLife, said, “When people think about recycled products today, they often think of things that are either rather minor or maybe that don’t have the same reputation or quality. What makes NextLife different is that they are making recycled products that are really high quality. These products are either the same or better than using virgin material.”
Another problem is consumer apathy because they don’t really see how their recycling efforts can make a difference. Kerrigan said that by closing the loop for retailers they are then able to promote the real environmental benefits to customers. For example, if customers know that by returning plastic bags to a retailer, this waste will then be turned into carts or totes used at the store, people are more likely to participate.
Beyond simply developing the technology, NextLife is working with Ciba Expert Services to develop scorecards and life cycle analysis that indicate the sustainability and environmental benefit of its products.
This year, NextLife developed a sustainable brand –ReStore™–exclusively for Wal-Mart Stores. The initial product development centered is around the lawn and garden category. NextLife introduced two innovative SKU’s for the lawn and garden category made entirely from Wal-Mart waste. This is just one example of a company looking to meet sustainability mandates recently launched by major retailers.