Savings Boosts Recycling Firm

September 19, 2003
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BYRON CENTER — The alphabet soup of quality and environmentally sound manufacturing — QS 9000 and ISO 14001 — has been among the influences spurring the growth of at least one recycling firm here.

The company is BATA (pronounced "Beta") Plastics Inc., which terms itself a full service, mid-stream plastic recycling facility.

According to its president, W. Lee Hammond, BATA has grown to be the largest company of its sort in West Michigan because its work helps manufacturers save money and cut their spiraling landfill cost.

But the increase in QS and ISO certifications among manufacturers, he added, also has helped because the certifications cause manufacturers to implement recycling.

"Recycled plastics are valuable and can be reused by the same company or sold to other manufacturers who use the same material," he said. "Plastics recycling is a key cost-cutting benefit for many manufacturers."

With reference to his firm, he said "full service" not only means that BATA trucks post-production plastics, but that it also sorts them for sale to manufacturers of plastics or to manufacturers who can re-use plastics in production plants.

He said he uses the term "mid-stream" to show that BATA prepares surplus and rejected plastics for reprocessing, though it does not itself engage in remanufacturing.

According to Hammond, sorting is one of the most important functions BATA serves.  

"Separability of the different plastics is a big, big issue," he told the Business Journal.

"If you let one type of plastic get in with another, then you've got something that nobody can use for anything." He said sorting not only is by type and size, but also by color.

He said the firm handles plastic scrap ranging from the size of dimes to canoes. It also can come in the form of resins, parts and regrind.

As to type, well, that's alphabet soup, too.

Hammond said the company deals with plastics such as BSC, PCAB, Polypro, flexible and rigid PVC, PC, HDPE, LDPE and HIPS.

After sorting, he said BATA then provides whatever level of processing buyers happen to require — from baling to grinding to pelletizing.

Hammond declined to go into details about his firm's equipment or processes. "This is a very, very competitive industry," he said, "and I don't really want to give others a blueprint about our operation."

He said BATA was founded in 1985, and that he and his wife, Barbara, bought it two years ago. Currently the company is a family operation. The Hammonds' 25-year-old son, Matthew, is operations and production manager and their daughter, Anna, 24, is office manager.

Hammond said his career before buying BATA was working as a national sales manager.

"Barb and I wanted to buy a business, because I wanted to be closer to home," he said. "I was sick of traveling and sick of making money for other people."

At the time they bought the company, he said it essentially had a staff of one: the former owner.

Today, he said, BATA — located a mile west of U.S. 131 on 100th Street — has a staff of 24.

Hammond notes that in addition to plastics, BATA — as of the end of June — also had processed nearly 70 tons of corrugated cardboard.

"One of our clients sent us a fax about this," he said.

"It indicated that helping in recycling that much paper through June saved 1,151 trees and 473,883 gallons of water. That's kind of neat."    

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