When Richard Latta bought Leda, a well-established, Upper Hutt manufacturer of plastic tubing, hoses and pipes, he realised that dozens of plastic bags (once emptied of raw materials) were being sent to the landfill every week. Then there was the skip full of cardboard. And endless bundles of plastic film wrapped around pallets of inward goods. He’s since made a conscious effort to recycle everything he can.
Leda’s extensive range of plastic tubing, hoses and pipes are shipped around New Zealand and to Australia, North and South America, India, Asia and the Middle East.
Richard explains that his biggest recycling challenge is the extrusion process itself. “The machines required to produce tubular products as small as ours can’t tolerate imperfections in raw materials like other moulding methods can. We’re therefore limited in our capacity to use 100 percent recycled plastic.” A degree of waste is inevitable as the machines need time to ‘warm up’ before forming a perfect tube, hose or pipe. The first few metres off every line are potentially wasted but Leda has found creative ways to minimise that. “We grind the rejects (seconds) into small chips then add a portion of new plastic and a colourant of our clients’ choice. The combination of new and recycled plastic is fed back through our machines to form a product that meets our high standards. It’s a pretty basic idea that reduces our waste and saves us money.”
Even though some of Leda’s recycling initiatives cost the business money, Richard is convinced that the benefits are worth it.
“We pay to freight our emptied plastic bags to a recycling business in Palmerston North and a local contractor collects our unwanted cardboard. It gives us peace of mind (that the waste isn’t going to a landfill), it saves us time and gives us extra space.”
Leda’s backyard was once littered with tiny plastic beads. “It didn’t seem right,” explains Richard. “The beads swept up from the factory floor were thrown into a skip outside. Every time the skip was emptied, the beads blew everywhere, the rain washed them down the drain and some probably ended up at sea somewhere south of Wellington.” Any sweepings are now contained in sealed bags.
Richard reflects on the fact that disposing of used or contaminated water via a council drain was once considered half-acceptable. “Most people didn’t think of the consequences.”
Leda’s next challenge is to reduce its waste water. The extrusion process uses a considerable amount of water and a mild lubricant to cool the plastic as its formed.
“Our plan is to develop a system so we can recycle the water we use every day. We’ll be pleased to dispose of less waste water and pay less in water rates (to the council) every year.”
Richard says, “Most of our solutions have been very low tech and just taken a bit of creative thinking. We can’t change the way things were done before but we can keep thinking (and acting) based on what’ we know is better for our environment now.”
Visit the Leda website: www.leda.co.nz
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Last updated on 21 May 2018