By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
FREDERICKTOWN — In today's environmentally conscious world, virtually everyone recycles at some level. The motto reduce, reuse and recycle has taken hold in companies and households nationwide, but rarely does anyone attain the success rate of FT Precision.
The Fredericktown company has nearly a 99 percent recycling rate. “Landfill is under 2 percent,” said Stephanie Furnis, safety and environmental coordinator. “Most of that is cafeteria waste. For the most part, we have a good variety of people who recycle; some people just don't care.”
The recycling message is part of new employee orientation. In addition to the usual efforts involving paper, cardboard and plastic bottles, the company separates and recycles two types of aluminum used in its product, ships 7,000 pounds of plastic trays used to transport parts back to Japan for reuse and uses washable rags rather than disposable.
It installed drinking fountains conducive to refilling water bottles. The company's tracking system shows one drinking fountain has eliminated waste from 6,000 disposable bottles; the other fountain is up to 20,000.
A plastic baler handles plastic bags and shrink wrap, tool cases are recycled and tools get re-bored. When tools reach the end of their lifespan, they are recycled. Even the steel and plastic bandings on parts are recycled.
“Everything we use we think about how will it end up,” said Furnis. “When engineers buy a new piece of equipment, they are told to take into account what will happen to that equipment at the end of its lifespan.”
Much of the impetus for recycling is because FT Precision's parts are used in European cars. Europeans have a goal of 100 percent recyclable materials in their cars, largely due to space constraints for landfills.
When a car is junked in Europe, literally everything in it is recycled. FT Precision keeps an International Material Data System (IMDS) sheet for the products it makes; the IMDS tracks all of the material used in manufacturing. “They need to know 100 percent what's in it so they know how to recycle it,” explained Furnis.
Regarding the cost of recycling, Furnis said FT Precision is “in the game.” The company gets some money back from some recyclables such as cardboard and newspaper, and gets rebates from American Electric Power for switching to energy-efficient lighting and other products. “But that doesn't offset the cost of recycling,” she said.
A machine bought to recycle mop water reduced the company's water usage from 1,000 gallons a week to 300 gallons every two weeks. The machine paid for itself in two months.
The company just ordered a $10,000 machine that will save on the amount of shot blasting media used for its aluminum products. FT Precision will recoup its investment in three months.
Some things that technically qualify as landfill the company will pay to recycle. An example is the blue nitrile gloves the company uses. “The only benefit FTP sees is it's not going into a landfill,” said Furnis. “It's not cost-effective for us.”
About the only thing FT Precision does not recycle is rainwater, but the company has a storm water retention plan. The drains in the parking lot have filters that catch oil and other contaminants before the water goes into a retention pond, and oil spills are treated immediately. The company conducts water quality tests on the pond water, which is not smelly or contaminated, and controls algae with rye.
Even with a nearly 99 percent recycle rate, Furnis, employees and company officials are always on the lookout for additional ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. “We try really hard, but there's always room for improvement,” said Furnis.
Goals for improvement include switching to lighting sensors to reduce CO2 emissions (the company is on target for this goal by 2020), trying to find more efficient air guns to reduce energy loss and light harvesting, lighting based on the number of people in a room at a given time. Furnis said it is good to control where and how you recycle 20,000 pounds of aluminum waste, but the big question is why have the scrap to begin with?