How PPG Streamlined their Waste Processes with Cardboard Box Reuse

6 April 2021By ellie Reuseabox

How PPG Streamlined their Waste Processes with Cardboard Box Reuse

Interview with PPG Industries: Global Manufacturer of Architectural Coatings

Last month Ellie caught up with Chris Smith to talk about the Cardboard Reuse Model at PPG Industries, Batley. Chris is a Project Manager at PPG Industries and has been instrumental in setting up their Reuse Model.

PPG Industries is a global manufacturer of architectural coatings and a producer of Johnstone’s and Leyland paint.

Cardboard Reuse Model At PPG

  • PPG now divert their used (reusable) cardboard boxes and sheets to the Reuseabox Reuse Model.
  • The Reuse Model at PPG has been easy to implement, has helped to streamline their waste process and has provided a fixed financial rebate that does not fluctuate.
  • Reuseabox provide PPG with a quarterly Environmental Report detailing their environmental achievements of reusing over recycling. This includes things such as carbon saved, trees saved and trees planted.
  • The Reuse Model has been instrumental in helping Chris and the team at PPG Batley to win an Environmental Award. It has also increased recovery of other types of reusable packaging.
  • To find out more about setting up a Reuse Model at your company go to Become a Supplier.

Ellie: Can you explain how the Cardboard Reuse Model works at PPG?

Chris: Around 18 months I was contacted by yourselves to ask if we had ever looked at moving to a Reuse Model away from a recycling model. At the time it was something that we’d never really considered. We viewed all of the cardboard that we had on site as waste and we baled it. Now we have a great system in place where a large percentage of the packaging that our raw materials comes in is sent for reuse rather than recycling. So we’re moving up the pyramid.

Ellie: So we’ve helped to set up the Cardboard Reuse Model with you which involves diverting your reusable cardboard to reuse. Can you explain how that process has worked within PPG?

Chris: When you’re changing a long standing system there’s always going to be challenges but the support that we got from Reuseabox from the very beginning has been great from top level down. Jack came to site and we did a full site audit of all the different cardboard waste streams. We were able to identify a large number of items that we produced volume of that could be sent to be reused. Training materials were provided for us. Documentation was provided for us. Information relating to the benefits of reuse was provided for us. And that really made it easier to get staff buy in. When you work in a manufacturing facility, the focus is obviously always on output, quite rightly so. Taking an established system and trying to implement change can be difficult. However with the tools that were provided, that process was much easier than it would have been without. We were able to realise pretty much instantaneously the results from that. It transpired that the majority of the work was already being done on the shop floor. It was just a case of streamlining it. That made it better for us in the long run.

Ellie: Have you found that process easy to implement? (diverting reusable cardboard to reuse)

Chris: Yes, we already had some of the foundation in place. For movement purposes we were separating out bigger items and smaller items and some of the packaging that we had on site was already returnable to suppliers. So this was just a tweak to the system. If anything it’s made our lives easier in the department because we’ve managed to cut down by over 60-70% the amount of cardboard that we actually bale on site after implementing this system. The time savings alone on that have been phenomenal. We’ve been able to really streamline some of the other areas, eliminate bottle necks, all because of what is really just a simple change.

Ellie: Ok, brilliant! A big thing for PPG was the environmental benefits of reuse over recycling. Can you explain what that meant to you and PPG?

Chris: I’ll be honest, this was the key benefit for me. As a company and as most companies are these days we’re very proud of our sustainability metrics and the efforts that we go to globally to manage all of our waste, reduce it as much as possible and we are measured on that on a yearly basis. When we were shown the metrics that were available, that was just a winner.

Having something visual like that, that we can go back to customers, to internal and external customers, to the guys working on the shop floor, and to be able to show them, look, you’re making a real difference here. In the past we were able to say well we’ve diverted this many tonnes away from landfill and that’s quite an abstract concept. Once it goes into the cage, once it leaves the units, that’s the end of the journey as far as they’re concerned.

Whereas being able to go back with a really well made graphic, and show people look this is how many trees you’ve saved this quarter, this is how many litres of water, how many kilowatt hours of energy, these are metrics that they’re used to in their day to day life. It’s brilliant. I couldn’t rave about it more. I love it. Over the last 12 months as well, with everything that’s been going on with Covid and all the uncertainty around there, it’s been a real bright point to be able to go back to the business and say yes we’re all working really hard at the moment, we’ve all got these other stresses going on but by these little changes you’ve made, these are the differences you’re making and continue to make. It just keeps it at the forefront of people’s minds rather than recycling and waste management just becoming another thing that they do each day. It’s something that they’re wanting to do because they can see the positive impacts of that.

Ellie: I’m really pleased about that. We give you an Environmental Report quarterly, which means we can actually give you the benefits of reuse over recycling. You’ve got some quite impressive statistics so far. You’ve saved 100 trees, over 13 tonnes of carbon. We also plant trees, so your cardboard has helped to plant 41 trees as well.

Chris: It’s great! Working in the Environmental Department as I did, you like to think that your role is having a positive impact and not just in negating the impact of the business but an overall plus. Just being able to see something like that just shows that all the efforts are worth it. It’s something we can take away from work and talk about to our family and friends about, I know I have. I’ve been particularly proud of being able to go, look from this partnership and the work we’ve been doing, we’re actually making a visible impact outside of the immediate business setting.

Ellie: That’s brilliant! Some businesses might be concerned that to be more eco-friendly might be more expensive. Have you found that to be the case?

Chris: No, not at all. We haven’t incurred any extra costs in the process. There was a very small startup cost of buying some strapping and banding tools, a couple of quid. If anything we will have been saving money. I know that we are using the baler less at both our sites, we are saving money on overtime hours that we were spending in the past when production really ramped up. We’d have to facilitate that. Whereas now the cardboard is one of the smallest items percentage wise that takes our time up. In terms of the structure, what we had to change internally, nothing really. One unit, we had to put a couple of extra pallets down for people to separate things out. Once people got into the habit, it becomes second nature. I definitely recommend people looking into it. Go for it!

Ellie: I think it’s worth mentioning that you also get a rebate. In a similar way that you would for recycling, we actually pay per box or per sheet, so it’s actually sell your cardboard for reuse rather than recycle it.

Chris: As somebody who has spent quite a lot of time over the last two or three years avidly watching the commodities market, having a stable income and a stable return for the cardboard is worth its weight in gold. You take some of that uncertainty away, take some of the need away to be hoarding massive quantities on site to try and get that extra couple of pence a tonne. And also you’ve got the piece of mind that the material is being handled at all stages in a compliant way. You put things on to the back of a container and you send them off, ultimately you can never be 100% sure of its final destination. Whereas in this circumstance you know that the cardboard is being purchased to be reused, it’s going to be reused. They’ll be no questions about quality, grade, no worries about refused loads or anything coming back. They’re all big ticks.

Ellie: That’s some really good points there. Thank-you for that. PPG Batley was awarded an Environmental Award for this Cardboard Reuse Model. Can you tell us a bit more about this award?

Chris: Every year globally, the different business units are all asked to submit various initiatives or changes that they’ve made within the business to improve their environmental footprint, to improve their sustainability, customer engagement. These are judged by business leaders globally and if you’re fortunate enough you’re awarded recognition for that. Last year we submitted the sustainability project, the Reuse Model for one of these awards and it’s a rigorous process. I think there was a roundabout 360 applications that were submitted across the business and we were fortunate enough to have won one of the sustainability categories.

It’s a real badge of pride for the business. It’s something that we celebrated internally, it’s recognition at the highest levels of the company because this goes all the way to the executive committee. That we are doing something different to everybody else and something that’s recognised as providing a real positive impact to the business. To put it on paper, list everything down there, because it’s been incremental benefit as well. As I mentioned earlier on we have a number of items that we return to suppliers as returnable packaging. By encouraging the segregation of items to be sent to yourselves we’ve also improved the amount of material that we’re sending back to suppliers as well. So there’s been even more benefit to our business probably by about 40-60 tonnes a year that we’ve diverted from baling in total. That all adds up. In terms of how we measure waste metrics, recycling is classed as waste, but selling something as reuse and reusing it, it’s no longer waste. That comes off your metrics. And we’ve been able to demonstrate on so many levels that this has been a really beneficial project for the company to undertake.

Ellie: That’s really great to hear. If there was another company similar to PPG out there and they were considering implementing a Reuse Model, what would you say to them?

Chris: I would absolutely recommend it because anything you can do as a business that can improve your environmental credentials and more importantly, anything we can do for the planet. I don’t want to sound cheesy but it’s absolutely true. I don’t think I’d ever been aware of the process that went into recycling the cardboard. Everyone hears about recycling and thinks it’s the gold standard, that’s what we should be doing. I think the public at large are becoming a little bit more savvy to that now and they’re realising that just putting something in a green bin or sending it off to a paper mill isn’t necessarily the best thing. And ultimately we’d all like to get to the eliminate part of the pyramid but just moving up to the reuse is a really good step in the right direction. It costs you nothing to have those conversations and I’ve found from my dealings with yourselves that it’s a real open and honest relationship. We’ve never been told that you could do something that you couldn’t do. And you’re very clear with what potential limitations there are and how we need to respond and act with each other to make sure that we’ve got a mutually beneficial relationship. So yeah go for it, definitely.


To find out more about setting up a Cardboard Reuse Model at your company go to Become a Supplier.



Join THE #ReuseRevolution Today!

Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about the latest trends, new arrivals and exclusive offers.