Many of us strive for careers in which we do well by doing good. It’s not easy to accomplish, but John Wood and Shawn Slattery, the CEO and president, respectively, of ABC member company Evolve Resource Management, seem to have achieved that goal.
Evolve goes to large companies, identifies their recycling challenges and finds an end-use for the materials. This process began when John and Shawn were approached by National Grid. As the company was transitioning to more environmentally conscious LED lights, it was searching to a solution to the problem of what to do with their old streetlights.
The pair saw a business opportunity and started Evolve. The company sold the usable parts of the old streetlights to be processed and transformed into new products, with the rest sold as commodities.
Evolve has also been focusing on ocean clean-up initiatives. Thanks to its cutting-edge plastic recycling technology, the company will be recycling ocean plastic by mid-summer, and has created both products that can be made from the plastic and markets for it.
One example is repurposing plastic water bottles. The company grinds down the plastic, takes the glue out, pulls the labels off, and the remaining materials are used to make everything from clothing to floor mats. The denser plastics are turned into plastic blocks from which other products are made. This type of recycling has become more popular thanks to the media attention paid to ocean cleanup.
Evolve also recycles more unusual products such as unused syringes. The company chips up these unused syringes and sells the material to oil and gas companies that make fuel out of it by chemically treating the plastic and using pressure and/or heat to turn it back into petroleum.
Evolve also researches and develops new uses for recycled materials. In the production of paper, there are leftover materials called short fibers that until now have been considered trash because they don’t bond to other materials. With the help of a government grant, company scientists figured out a way to make the fibers bond with recycled plastic.
In just two years, Evolve has grown quickly. The company already needs a bigger building and Slattery says “We have more opportunities than we can handle.”
There seems to be no end to the uses for materials Evolved recycles. A Texas company for which Evolve recycles suitcases even pays to transport them to New England to ensure that all are recycled.
Despite high demand, continuing growth is critical because the profit margin on each unit is small.
Evolve will begin manufacturing its own recycled materials this spring, starting with building materials like siding and roof underlayment.
In a time when there has never been greater focus on sustainability and the environment, Evolve Resource Management has carved out a niche by finding new uses for products that until now have too often ended up soiling our oceans and other critical environments.