THE BLOG
06/15/2016 02:49 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2017

Recycling Industrial Waste Materials

Waste outputs for industrial materials like solvents, paints, oils and adhesives are difficult to deal with. Either laden with or exposed to chemicals hazardous to humans and the environment, the proper disposal and containment of these products and their packaging is highly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and cannot typically be captured or processed by municipal waste systems. Companies, manufacturers and small businesses are thereby responsible for the private management of this waste, which typically entails linear disposal solutions like incineration, land disposal and underground injection wells.

Industrial waste materials must be disposed of properly and safely, but like all types of waste, viable waste solutions are contingent upon economics. There is little economic incentive to employ other solutions for discarded industrial waste materials in addition to the usual linear disposal, which is often quite costly to begin with. Non-linear technologies for hazardous waste management now exist, but by and large, most businesses dealing with industrial materials do not offer regenerative waste solutions for their products and packaging.

At TerraCycle, we strongly believe that nothing is beyond recycling, and companies, manufacturers and other organizations seeking to take greater responsibility for their part in the waste economy allow us to apply cyclical solutions to an expanding breadth of new product categories.

Companies like Henkel, one of TerraCycle's newest corporate partners, are helping to change the trajectory of industrial waste materials from conventional linear disposal towards more circular solutions. A leading global manufacturer of adhesives, sealants, and functional coatings, including the LOCTITE® brand, Henkel is the first company to offer a recycling solution for anaerobic adhesive packaging. Through the LOCTITE® Anaerobic Adhesive Recycling Program, Henkel customers can purchase a postage-paid recycling box that they fill with empty anaerobic LOCTITE adhesive containers and send to TerraCycle for processing. TerraCycle will thermally treat the containers and turn them into new plastic products.

Difficult-to-recycle waste outputs like industrial sealants can be managed effectively by bringing a perspective of value to its component parts as potential inputs to new production cycles. Another example of a company that recycles its industrial waste, and makes a profit while doing it, is General Motors. Among the materials diverted from landfills through circular systems, paint sludge has been turned into plastic containers durable enough to hold Chevrolet volt and Cruze engine components, and solvents used between paint color changes have been reformulated into paints applied to plant floors. GM is a large-scale example of a manufacturer that has created a production infrastructure that makes capturing and processing their post-industrial waste revenue-friendly.

As it remains, most product and packaging waste is not recyclable through our current recycling infrastructure, requiring private management for most categories. Meanwhile, large manufacturers like GM demonstrate that circular solutions can help the bottom line, while companies offering recycling programs for difficult-to-recycle waste outputs, like Henkel, prove that capture and processing is possible for these items at the consumer level. The greatest challenge presented by industrial waste is the general belief that its outputs have no solutions save linear disposal, which is simply not true. Regenerative solutions are available to manage industrial wastes at the consumer, commercial and production levels.