Innovation doesn’t have to be finding a needle in a haystack…

When thinking about restaurant sustainability and how our industry can be more sustainable there are so many places to start.  We could for example look at reducing water consumption, minimizing linen, energy efficient appliances and equipment to start, but all of those are fairly obvious answers.  It wasn’t until I read an article about a company called Think Plastics that I realized the benefit to thinking outside the box…outside of those obvious problems; that is where the true opportunities lie for innovative, exciting new ideas surrounding sustainability. 


The article, ‘Thinking Outside the Recycling Box” (Exchange Magazine for Entrepreneurs) explains how plastics veteran Chuck Sparks saw a challenge, turned it in to an opportunity then made it a successful business; all with plastic wrap from hay bales.  It started with a simple question to himself as he was driving through the country: “What happens to all that plastic?” Upon investigation he discovered it was not recycled, but harmfully burned with the residue buried.  Sparks discovered that it could in fact be recycled into what his company, Think Plastics, calls “Baleboard”; a plastic lumber that can be used for non-load bearing applications where wood and composites are used today, such as decks or boardwalks.


Sparks has created a win-win situation as he now takes the bale wrap off the farmer’s hands, diverts waste to recycling and now produces a reliable, innovative alternative for consumers.


All this came from always asking why and made me think of what opportunities may lie within the restaurant industry that right now, seem to have no obvious solution.  I think we should take a page from Sparks’ book and look outside the box for practical, simpler answers to common challenges.


Think Plastics has now expanded their portfolio to include recycling greenhouse plastic covering and has now recycled a combined 7.1 million pounds of bale wrap and plastic covering!  It is sourced all from Ontario, and all of which was previously harmfully disposed.


For more information on Think Plastics and uses for Baleboard, check out their website or see it in person on the walkways at The Boardwalk at Ira Needles Blvd., Waterloo.

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