Move over Farm-to-Fork! There is a new sustainability movement emerging in California that is reducing waste, cutting GHG emissions, and providing access to new green jobs in communities across the State. You can see it on display at Command Packaging’s manufacturing facility south of downtown Los Angeles in Vernon. Think of it as “Ag-to-Bag.”
This sustainable recycling model is transforming millions of tons of agricultural plastic into top-of-the-line reusable bags each year. Now, with the help of $3 million from California Climate Investments, Command Packaging (recently acquired by Delta Plastics) is taking closed loop to the next level.
“Our goal is to recycle up to 100 million pounds of the plastic each year and keep growing in that way,” explains Cherish Changala, Command Packaging’s Vice President of Marketing and Sustainability. “In the past, farmers had to pay landfills to bury this material, but we’re able to recycle it and turn it into reusable bags.”
Agricultural plastic is what you see on fields throughout the Central Valley and other major farming communities. Farmers use it to cover grapes and almonds, keep pests away from strawberries, and irrigate tomatoes, among other uses. As the plastic is removed at the end of its useful life, Command Packaging’s sister company, Encore Recycling, collects, cleans the material and converts it into pellets at its plant in Salinas. The pellets are then taken to Command Packaging’s Vernon plant, where they are made into bags.
“We’ve seen a big increase in production of our reusable bags since California’s single-use plastic bag ban took effect,” Changala notes. “The demand has steadily increased, and our workforce has expanded as a result.”
The steady supply of agricultural plastic from California farms means Command Packaging’s future growth potential is virtually unlimited. The company is using its $3 million grant from CalRecycle’s Recycled Fiber, Plastic, and Glass program to upgrade its bag-making equipment, allowing the company to increase the recycled content of its reusable bags significantly. Recycling materials like fiber, plastic, and glass avoids using energy and producing GHG emissions associated with mining and refining raw materials.
“The good thing about what we’re doing is taking something that was going to landfills and ensuring that does not happen,” Changala says. “It’s not just talk. We’re doing it and we’re really trying to make a difference.”