There is a concept in both marketing and logistics known as ‘hyperlocal’. Though there are subtle differences in its meaning between industries, the hyperlocal concept is rooted in focusing an organization’s efforts on the local community. Is it a concept we could apply to recycling?
Industrial plastic recycling is a profitable business in the U.S. By looking at how it works and how companies like Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics make a good profit doing so, recycling advocates can make a good case for hyperlocal recycling.
Hyperlocal and Logistics
Let us take the idea of hyperlocal out of the recycling realm and apply it to logistics. A hyperlocal logistics model focuses almost exclusively on the quality of the end-user’s experience. In an online shopping scenario, the end-user is the retail customer.
In order to guarantee the customer’s satisfaction, hyperlocal logistics relies on a distribution model involving more local warehouses, more local deliveries, and very fast last mile delivery.
Large quantities of goods are shipped to local distribution centers so that, when orders are placed online, deliveries can be made in short order. The entire logistics scheme is broken down into many small segments – rather than just a few larger segments – to facilitate fast local delivery. Now, let us apply this to recycling.
Municipal recycling efforts tend to be motivated by local concerns. But in terms of the end result, local needs are often way down the priority list.
Local municipalities operate residential recycling programs in order to help residents do their part to reduce waste. In that sense, a municipal recycling program is locally focused. But the actual products produced through recycling have very little direct impact on local residents.
You previously read about Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics. They make industrial scrap plastic recycling workable and profitable by only accepting clean, sorted plastics they can turn into regrind they sell to manufacturers. Let us say we took their model and applied it to municipal recycling with a hyperlocal mindset.
Forget the Curbside Bin
Making the model work would require dispensing with the curbside bin municipal waste haulers have relied on for decades. That bin is largely responsible for creating the number one problem that makes municipal recycling unprofitable: contamination.
Instead, individual recycling companies would specialize in specific materials like plastic, paper, and glass. Consumers would sort and clean their recyclables at home, then leave each material separately for a recycling company to pick up.
A local plastic recycler might be more than happy to take all sorts of PET products ranging from water bottles to food containers. The company would shred the plastic, mix it with virgin PET, and manufacture new food containers it would turn around and sell to local hotels, restaurants, etc.
Hyperlocal Requires a New Mindset
The example of the local PET recycler demonstrates that hyperlocal recycling would work, at least in theory. Whether or not it would work practically is another matter entirely. Giving it an honest go would require a new mindset among both entrepreneurs and consumers.
Hyperlocal recycling would require more consumer effort to clean and sort different materials. It would require a willingness among entrepreneurs to start locally focused companies that remain locally focused throughout their lifetimes.
Seraphim Plastics proves every day that plastic recycling works and is profitable – if you do it the right way. Their business model offers a blueprint for effective recycling across the board. Combine that blueprint with the hyperlocal concept and you have the genuine ability to make a huge dent in our collective waste stream. So who is willing to step up to the plate and lead the way?