Del Monte’s container manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois is simply known as Plant No. 115. It’s recycling program, however, is not as simple as its name. A mixture of multimaterial reuse and recycling extends outward to include both its employees and residents of the surrounding community.
“It was a natural step for us to take,” said Dennis Ruehlman, a production supervisor for the plant. “Although the town of Rochelle has its own recycling program, many of our employees live in rural areas not covered by any sort of recycling program. We wanted to extend the opportunity to recycle to those people”.
Beyond recycling damaged steel cans and steel can scrap at the plant, Del Monte provides employees with recycling containers for both home and office use. By allowing recycling bins to be taken home, employees are able to store and bring steel cans and other materials to the plant for recycling. Containers for recyclables are also located at employees’ desks and work stations.
The plant accepts steel food and beverage cans, aluminum cans, cardboard, newspaper, white paper and magazines. Del Monte’s facility has opened its doors to four local elementary schools and junior high. Periodically, the schools bring bins of white paper and magazines saved by the students, faculty and staff to drop-off locations just inside the plant.
Empty steel cans and steel tinplate scrap are collected into large containers throughout the plant. Each container is emptied by a plant forklift operator. The steel cans and steel tinplate scrap are taken to AMG Resource Corporation, a detinner located in Gary, Indiana, where the cans are processed and baled. The steel can scrap is then shipped to local end markets.
In addition to recycling, the Del Monte plant also reuses slightly flawed steel cans for non-food special use. An arrangement was made between Del Monte and a nearby workshop for the developmentally disabled in Oregon, Illinois.
A number of 15-ounce cans with minor defects or flaws are set aside at the plant instead of being recycled. These cans are taken to the workshop, called the Village of Progress. There, Village employees work to turn the cans into piggy banks.
“The banks are really nice, “ said Ruehlman. “We had a large number of them produced for us with some of our antique labels dating back to 1909. We use the banks as promotional items during events such as local celebrations and the state fair.”