Picking up green

Being good to the environment and the bottom line simultaneously is no easy task, as any fleet will tell you. But achieving this twin goal with trucks is pretty straightforward and well known to most fleets. If the goods you are hauling aren't green, though, what's a fleet to do? This issue became critical for P&R Paper Supply Co., which sells a full line of paper products, retail packaging, chemicals,

Being good to the environment and the bottom line simultaneously is no easy task, as any fleet will tell you. But achieving this twin goal with trucks is pretty straightforward and well known to most fleets. If the goods you are hauling aren't green, though, what's a fleet to do?

This issue became critical for P&R Paper Supply Co., which sells a full line of paper products, retail packaging, chemicals, janitorial supplies, and food service items.

Family-owned and operated since 1965, Redlands, CA-based P&R serves southern California, Arizona and Nevada with over 5,000 items in stock, offering what it calls a “big company experience” with small company comfort and service with its 130 employees.

One of the most in-demand product lines is Styrofoam trays and other containers; however, the product is considered bad for the environment. Yet more earth-friendly replacements cost two to three times more than Styrofoam equivalents — a cost not easily absorbed by the prisons, hospitals and school cafeterias that are some of P&R's biggest customers.

What to do? P&R joined forces with three of its major suppliers — Dart, Genpak and Pactiv — to help create a special Styrofoam recycling plan. Dart constructed a plant that would take old Styrofoam containers and process them into blocks of plastic. These are then sold to various plastic manufacturers that turn them into goods such as picture frames. This alleviates customer concerns over using lower-cost yet environmentally unfriendly products. But how would those used materials get to the recycling facility? That's where P&R's fleet came into the picture.

ONE HYBRID LATER

P&R operates a fleet of 37 tractors and straight trucks via a full-service lease through Inland PacLease-Fontana, the local PacLease franchise. With support from its suppliers, P&R decided to lease a Kenworth T370 hybrid that was dedicated primarily to collecting used Styrofoam containers. This not only produced the critical transportation link for the recycling plant, it also alleviated the need for customers to haul away the waste.

“Once the many Styrofoam cups, trays and containers used throughout schools, prisons and restaurants are done being used, they can be repacked in boxes and backhauled for recycling into other products,” explains Lora Chrest, assistant controller at P&R.

“We pick up those ‘dirty’ products and haul them to the recycling plant. Then we wash out and re-sanitize the truck so we can use it for other P&D assignments,” she says. “This is a huge deal for our customers. It's taken off like crazy, largely because a comparable biodegradable option to the Styrofoam product line would cost them up to two to three times more.”

On top of that, P&R decorated its hybrid truck with graphics on the side of the van body to call attention to its Styrofoam recycling efforts — a way to garner some public recognition for its efforts as well as encourage others to recycle. The truck itself is expected to save upwards of 30% on the fuel bill for P&R, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40% and carbon monoxide by 90%.

“We're finding that our customers, if given a choice, want to be environmentally friendly. That goes from buying products that are biodegradable and compostable, to products that can be recycled,” Chrest says.

“Now with the new hybrid, we're excited to be entering a new chapter,” she adds. “We're very confident that the hybrid will be a big success for our company and shed further light on our efforts in recycling.”

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