Finding The Right Buyers For A Plant’s Byproduct Or Discards

A very smart man once said, “recyclables aren’t sold; they’re bought.”  And with a few obvious exceptions, this is true. Some products have a ready market. Corn, wheat, and old cardboard are good examples. Five minutes on search engines and multiple prospective buyers will be identified. But with recycling wastes or byproduct, is a very different story. 

If your plant is generating significant volumes of a process or packaging waste that you wish to recycle there are some important considerations to bear in mind—first, volume matters. To attract the interest of a buyer, a seller must have enough to justify the buyer’s attention. Second, quality is essential. Keep the product free of other wastes. Finally, where possible, maximize loads: bale, compact and consolidate to minimize transportation costs. Prospective buyers will help you with this. 

The following ideas will help to begin a search for buyers of waste streams that you may want to recycle.  

Packaging Discards

Begin by learning if the packaging manufacturer or the vendor that sent it to you has a process for recycling or reuse. This is not often the case but is growing in popularity. This could be a program with local facilities that recondition for reuse or recycle the product. Steel and poly drums, IBC totes, and similar products have buyers, after some searching. 

Often packaging will have a recycling logo, label, brand, or trade name identifying it. If you can’t readily establish its origin, you will want to enlist the help of your procurement team. Ask them to contact the vendor who can often provide this. In the past, this was more difficult, but today organizations are accustomed to inquiries about packaging recycling. 

Once you know what you have, it’s a matter of networking with your peers at your sister plants and facilities, chambers of commerce, professional and trade associations to begin running down the list of prospective buyers. Once again, use your search engines to learn about the packaging. The more you know, the more likely you are to find a home for your packaging. One of the best ways is to ask your current recyclers who they know about a product. Ask them if they are willing to make some introductions for you. It may take some time and patience, but you will be rewarded. 

Process Waste / Byproduct

Recycling process waste can be more challenging. But this too, with sufficient time and patience, will often yield a home for wastes that can mean substantial benefit to a company’s sustainability program and considerable savings when compared to landfills. Conversations with peers, professional associations, conferences, and trade shows can be a wealth of information. Some recycling streams and ideas to get started include:

  • Food Waste – Livestock farms, feed mills, anaerobic digesters, and composters
  • Wood waste – Mulch processors, animal bedding, and charcoal manufacturing.
  • Sludges – Crop farms, anaerobic digesters, and composters.
  • Plastics – Re-processors, compounders, and injection molders.

These lists are not exhaustive but are simply designed to provide a starting point in your recycling journey. Let us know what you find and if we can help you, please let us know at

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