Gateway Industries’ recycling efforts continue to grow

The Eldon sheltered workshop has expanded jobs, community service with beneficial recycling program

Eldon students Jonathon Engelmeyer, left, and Zach Boatner work for a few hours at Gateway Industries, breaking down cardboard to be hauled to the baler as part of the recycling program.

Eldon students Jonathon Engelmeyer, left, and Zach Boatner work for a few hours at Gateway Industries, breaking down cardboard to be hauled to the baler as part of the recycling program. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.

On Thursday, individuals across the nation will celebrate America Recycles Day, in the midst of National Recycling Week, which is held Nov. 12-18 this year.

With few select places in the Lake of the Ozarks that encourage and take in recycling for the community, one location – Gateway Industries – is continuing to grow its recycling efforts and supply important jobs in hopes to preserve America’s environment.

Gateway Industries in Eldon, which was established in April 1998, is a not-for-profit extended employment sheltered workshop for the mentally and physically handicapped in central Missouri. It employs 42 certified employees that do a variety of assembly and packaging work for businesses in and around the Lake Area.

“Outside of our 41 certified employees, we have myself and four supervisors,” said Dave Souders, manager at Gateway Industries in Eldon. “We do a variety of assembly and packaging work including packaging for Fasco, assembly work for Johnson Control (formerly Keiper), tie specialized twine for cured hams at Burger’s (Smokehouse), packaging for a handrail manufacturer at the Lake, specialized and labeling work for Innovative Procurement’s shooting targets and small additional small jobs. Then we do our recycling.”

Souders said four years ago, PAVE AmeriCorps approached Gateway Industries about helping them start a recycling program in the community. They primarily wanted to start recycling efforts in the school, and Souders found that paper recycling was an effort he and his employees could participate in at Gateway Industries’ 10,000-square foot facility.

“The sheltered workshop in Boonville did work for Caterpillar for 35-40 years (before the company dropped the services of the workshop),” Souders explained. “So they went strictly to recycling. I went up there and visited the facility and they do a great job. I helped model our program after them. We are making money on it, but it is more of a community service. Everybody wants to recycle and there is another recycling place in town that does cans and aluminum. We take all of our cans over to them, too, helping each other out. It’s been a great program for the employees and for the community.”

Souders said the program began with PAVE AmeriCorps and the schools in the area, quickly growing beyond those facilities.

“They put recycling containers in every room at the various schools in Eldon. The kids put all the paper in their room’s container, then the kids take those containers down and dump them into one of the bigger containers for pick up,” Souders explained. “We then go around and pick it up a couple times a week. It just kind of escalated from there.”

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THIS PHOTO IS NOT FOR SALE! Gateway Industries employee Mark Koetting sorts paper as part of the sheltered workshop’s recycling program.

The recycling program began with paper product pick up at Eldon’s South Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle and High schools, administration offices and Vo-Tech building. Then, Souders said the churches inquired about getting in on the recycling program. Now, Gateway Industries picks up bins at seven to eight churches in the Eldon area.

“The post office called me one day and asked if we wanted their undeliverable mail such as discarded newspapers, junk mails, etc.,” he said. “Now, we go there twice a week to pick up those paper products for recycling.”

Souders said when Gateway Industries started the recycling of paper products, they would take a variety of newspaper, white copy paper, magazine slick and other assorted office products, sort them and put them in big Gaylord boxes to be picked up by their recycling reclaimer. After about a year, Souders pursued a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant to purchase a baler and shredder in hopes to keep up with the volume of products being recycled.

“We received a USDA grant for $22,000. This helped purchase our first baler and shredder, along with other little equipment to help such as metal cages used to separate the paper into,” he said.

Souders said they also started taking in cardboard. At first, Gateway Industries employees would store the cardboard until they had enough to fit it into the bales. However, after about a year and a ½ of that, they decided they needed additional equipment to solely tackle the cardboard recycling process.

“We then received a $15,000 grant from DNR (Missouri Department of Natural Resources) through the Lake of the Ozarks Solid Waste Management District T, which serves Miller, Camden and Laclede counties,” Souders said. “This grant allowed us to purchase another baler for cardboard and a conveyor.”

Souders said when they first got the shredder, the employees had to use small rollaway carts and roll them to the warehouse for the baler. Now, with the conveyor, it helps the employees deliver the recycling products to the baler, cutting down on time and additional physical labor.

“We are taking 5-6 times more cardboard then we have a year. We have four-five convenience stores in town that save their cardboard for us, in addition to a furniture store, auto parts store and some of our companies we have job contracts with,” Souders said. “With the second baler and conveyor we got in April we are able to send stuff to our recycling reclaimer about every four and a 1/2 to five weeks, versus every eight weeks.”

Outside of the paper and cardboard pick up efforts, Gateway Industries also has a drop-off dumpster available to the Lake Area community for individuals to recycle paper and cardboard products, as well. Souders said people will drop off items in the dumpster, which the employees collect the next morning as part of the program.

Souders said Gateway Industries currently recycles office paper, color paper, magazines, phone books, old newspaper print, computer paper, old corrugated cardboard and boxboard items such as cereal boxes, paper egg cartons, etc. They also recycle hardback books, which have become an increasingly popular recycling item at the facility.

“We will take anything paper. This one lady brings us a load six to eight times a year of hardback books. They are left over books that don’t sell have a long period of time from a large book sale in Jefferson City (at one of the local organizations). We take the pages out of the hard back books and it goes in one box and the covers go into another box,” he said. “We also have a board member from Iberia that brings a lot of books and other paper products up to us for recycling. We would love to expand the program to other schools in the area, and just need to grow our manpower to do so. We can always talk to schools about the opportunity.”

Souders said outside of the paper products and cardboard, they have also started recently recycling shrink-wrap from local companies such as Fasco and Smith and Paper Supply. He said he has some plans in the work to help utilized some of the recycled materials to help out local businesses, as well, and possibly continue to grow the recycling programs to include other areas and more types of recycled products.

“There is a local business that is trying to go green and get rid of their Styrofoam peanuts. They are looking at shredded boxboard for their packing material,” he said. “This way, they can pack up their stuff with the shredded boxboard and when a company receives it they can recycle it, too. We are working out that deal and hoping to expand on a few others.”

Overall, the recycling program has created four additional jobs with the new baler that arrived in April. Souders said overall it keeps 10-12 employees busy with Gateway Industries’ recycling program, along with a few supervisors. In addition, Gateway Industries has students from Eugene, Eldon and Osage high schools and Vo-tech programs that also work a few hours a week helping with the recycling program.

Souders said about 70-75 percent of the sheltered workshop’s funding comes from contracted work in the community, however they do receive state funding and are governed by the Missouri Department of Education. Yet, he feels that the recycling program is not only beneficial to his employees, but also a community service that is greatly needed.

“I think the employees enjoy the recycling opportunity for work. I have a couple employees that get to go with the supervisors for pick up and interact with the community. They really love talking with the people at the schools and other places we stop at,” Souders said. “The parents are also enthralled with their success. They are excited their child is running a baler, knowing when it’s full and how the job is done.”

“There are so many people from the Lake that are from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and used to curbside. I would love to have it, but they still recycle when they are here. I get a lot of people from the Lake,” he said. “I have found out that you can recycle anything as long as someone is willing to take it. Recycling is all about making it easy; if you can make it easy for someone they will do it.”

For more information about the recycling program and Gateway Industries, contact Souders at 573-392-4405, ext. 21 or visit www.gatewayeldon.com.

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