FSU Bata Plastics Green Partners

July 9, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University and Bata Plastics Inc. of Byron Center have struck a business deal — but it's also an environmental compact and a learning experience for students getting an education in plastics engineering.

The FSU plastics and rubber engineering technology department, with help from Bata, will recycle the department’s more than 20,000 pounds of plastic scrap material a year. FSU is one of the leading schools in America in plastics and rubber technology programs. Students use sophisticated industrial machinery, and that's where the 20,000 pounds of scrap comes from. It had been going into a landfill, but now, "Bata is going to come and take the stuff right off our docks,” said Bob Speirs, an FSU professor and chair of the department.

“This is a big win-win,” Speirs said.

Bata Plastics buys plastic scrap from injection-molding companies, grinds it and sells it back to them in a form they can use. While 20,000 pounds of scrap is small potatoes to Bata, "it’s 20,000 pounds not going in the dump," noted Speirs.

And Bata will pay Ferris for the scrap. W. Lee Hammond, president and CEO of Bata, said the recycling program will probably generate a few thousand dollars of revenue for the university each year.

“One of the important things here is that students also are learning how to recycle for future generations,” said Hammond, a board member of the Michigan Recycling Coalition. Bata recently contributed $5,000 to the Ferris endowment fund. FSU set up a recycling area for the plastics engineering department, and Hammond occasionally will speak to the department’s students about the environmental and financial issues of plastic scrap recycling.

Bata Plastics is the largest industrial plastics recycler in West Michigan, one of the top five in the state and nationally ranked 133 out of 250 recyclers by Plastics News, according to Hammond.   

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