Going “green” should be part of every operator’s corporate commitment, but also part of the services he or she offers to locations. While there are many aspects of going “green,” this article will focus on packaging and paper goods used in vending and OCS.
Many operators report more locations being concerned about the environment, whether customers are asking about switching to biodegradable products or having recycling programs. Being knowledgeable about these products and offering the best value to locations is imperative in the eco-friendly packaging and paper goods market.
Additionally, using the programs and sustainability information from the national brands can help an operator offer “green” solutions in vending and OCS without affecting operations in an adverse way.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for operators to sell these products,” said Ralph Bianculli, director of business development of Paradigm Group, concerning environmentally friendly products. Paradigm offers a line of “green” products called the Emerald brand, which includes cutlery made from corn starch to toilet paper made of sugar cane stalks.
“Our green sales from 2009 to 2010 were up 123 percent in green products,” said Bianculli. The increase was driven by more customers asking for them.
Competitive pricing helps
Whether or not a location is looking for environmentally-friendly options depends greatly on its size and management, according to Carey Werner, regional director for Answer Vending in Farmingdale, N.Y. “At locations with 150 or more people, products that are green are a major selling factor,” he said. The eco-friendly toilet paper, paper towels, etc. are lower in price and very competitive, although the end user will still notice a difference between the green product and a premium, name brand product like Cottonelle or Bounty.
“When (companies) talk green with me, it’s mostly about image,” said Werner. He recently had a law firm that wanted to use as many eco-friendly products as possible. He noticed that more OCS accounts ask about eco-friendly products compared to vending locations. Also, larger companies will ask, where small business owners assume they can’t afford greener products.
Price is still a barrier
Balancing environmental products and price is a challenge. Werner offers an example using a coffee cup. The client is concerned about the environmental impact of Styrofoam, so they want to switch to paper cups. Paper costs twice as much, and the cup is plastic coated. When Werner suggests something made from corn or rice, a more sustainable solution, and the client sees the price, he backs off.
Single-cup brewers also become an issue when a location is concerned with going green if the packets are plastic and/or foil.
recycling challenges some
Recycling programs are part of the sustainable packaging process because they reuse containers and provide recycled material for new containers. However, these initiatives still have problems. Where Werner is located, in the tri-state area, recycling has a logistics challenge.
“I personally did start a recycling program at locations with our beverages, but it became a major issue,” said Werner. Tens of thousands of containers had to be stored somewhere when the driver couldn’t take the load that day, and they attract rodents, so they must be stored outside and washed. “We still do it,” said Werner, despite the challenges.
New York also recently changed its laws about uncollected deposits from beverage containers. The previous, unclaimed 5-cent minimum refundable deposit per beverage used to be kept by service providers, but under the new bottle law, 80 percent of the unredeemed deposits are required to go to the state general fund. “Not enough people are recycling, so they are putting the onus on the vendor,” added Werner.
Another thing Answer Vending recycles is cardboard. All five company branches collect and either bundle or compact the cardboard from their warehouses. The company also tries to operate paperlessly, getting more orders via email than before.