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Cope Plastics: Demonstrating Recycling as a Business Strategy


Cope Plastics is a privately held, woman-owned based in Alton, Illinois, which is just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. In 2014, the firm was recognized by the International Association of Plastics Distribution with the Environmental Excellence Award for Best Recycling Program. Therein is a Great Manufacturing Story.

Cope is a fabricator of plastic sheet, rod and tube, serving customers across much of the country. In 2012, the company invited customers to return plastic scrap for recycling. In the 12-month period ending in June 2014, Cope received and recycled 604,053 pounds of scrap, constituting 36 different grades of plastic.   

Next, Cope added a single-stream recycling program for employees, many of whom live in communities that do not provide curbside recycling. Employees brought their mixed recyclables to work, and this program kept 200,000 pounds of post-consumer waste being diverted from area landfills.

Moreover, Cope now recycles old or broken wood pallets by returning them to a pallet manufacturer that converts them into mulch. This Cope initiative creates about 100,000 pounds of mulch each year, and eliminates the need to burn the obsolete pallets.

Cope adopted its recycling program as part of a sound business strategy that emphasizes close relationships with customers and suppliers. The business continues to grow, as well. In late 2014, Cope purchased J.B. Jensen & Son, Inc. The transaction provides Cope with additional screw machines and computer numerically controlled equipment to machine plastics for the auto, electronics, aerospace, food transportation, and farm equipment industries.

Cope began operations as a plastics parts distributor in 1946. During the 1950s, industrial customers began requesting  cut-to-specification parts with drilled holes and finished edges. Cope responded by expanding its fabrication capabilities.

After initially serving mostly just the St. Louis regional market, in 1964 the company opened sales offices in the Midwest and the South. Jane Saale became CEO and part-owner in 2004. The company now has numerous locations that serve as sales offices, warehouses, and limited-fabrication centers, from which it serves an estimated 7,000 industrial customers.