Doing ‘the right thing’ at Verde Partners
Couple’s startup finds success recycling the plastics no one knew what to do with.
Jenny and Rick Lamble have a clear focus: do the right thing.
That desire — combined with Rick’s 20-year background in the landscaping industry, Jenny’s business and education background, and a random conversation started at their daughter’s basketball game — has led to Verde Partners, a company in Wadesville that partners with other businesses to recycle plastic waste.
As a landscape architect, Rick had seen the plastic containers used for plants, which are not easily recyclable, either sit in piles or sent off to landfills. Environmentally conscious, he wanted to do something to change that.
Then he sat next to Eric Stockton at their daughters’ basketball game. Stockton is an applications manager for Lucent Polymers, which supplies various market segments with custom-compounded plastic made primarily from postindustrial waste streams.
“He said, ‘bring me some samples,’ ” Rick said, “and that started it.”
“Rick and Jenny, who are very planet and community conscious, approached me with a growing problem,” Stockton said. “Thousands upon thousands of planting pots and trays are collecting across the Midwest in fields and landfills. He asked if there was anything we could do with these.”
Stockton teamed up with a colleague and discovered a way to make the plastics usable for items such as plastic shelving, automobile wheel liners, and spools for packaging wire and cable. Now Verde Partners offers pickup of these plastics free of charge and transfers them to Lucent Polymers, who pays for the product.
“Verde delivers to Lucent’s grinding facility in Poseyville,” Stockton said. “We grind the parts, blend with resins and additives, and produce pellets, which are sold to plastic injection molders who make the parts.”
Verde Partners’ first big collection was from a company that had been storing the plastic pots for 35 years. It was a 20,000-pound load.
Still a new company, having launched in 2012, it already is branching out to other types of plastics. Among the partnerships, it now collects about 200 buckets from Donut Bank every week and recently secured a contract with Vectren to collect old gas pipe.
“We found that there are so many places that don’t recycle but want to,” Jenny said. “Different companies and different industries have waste, and we’re trying to help them do the right thing for the environment.”
“It’s great to see a local business take initiative and reach out to companies to do the right thing,” said Vectren sustainability analyst Abigail Folz-Vaal. Since her role is to seek out opportunities to make the company more sustainable, she said, she was thrilled when Rick reached out to ask what was being done with the pipe, which is made of a plastic that isn’t a common recyclable material. After a certain amount of time, the pipe no longer is usable.
Folz-Vaal said she is working with Verde Partners to explore other recycling possibilities.
“Plastics are so different. The Vectren gas pipe will be used for a specific item,” Rick said, noting that each company has a range of plastics it uses.
“What we found is companies were spending thousands of dollars a week on disposal fees, so this is definitely a win-win for them,” Jenny said.
Verde Partners also has a collection site at Wesselman’s Nature Center, and it is exploring opportunities on the West Side as well.
Jenny said that one of the most surprising aspects they have encountered since launching the business is simply that such a need for this service existed.
“We had to find a way to do it, to find a way to make it work,” she said. “We really are excited about where it could go because we really just don’t know.”
“Here we are, just Jenny and I, working with a top-1,000 company,” Rick said.
And the business is growing while Rick and Jenny have other jobs. They are dedicated to Verde Partners, however, and the positive feedback they have received helps to keep them going.
“I think what they are doing is great,” Folz-Vaal said. “They provide so much benefit to our company and others.”
“Verde has figured out a hometown solution to recycling that benefits our local communities,” Stockton said. “They have figured out a way to make collection personal with known outcomes.”
And as Verde Partners grows and finds more opportunities for recycling less common materials, more companies and the environment can find benefits, the Lambles said.
“The possibilities are endless,” Jenny said.