Working together is more effective than working alone and that’s exactly what 3M and Vomela, a graphics and printing company, are doing with one sustainability challenge. The duo joined forces in 2019 on a project to reuse plastic endcaps which are crucial for transit because they protect 3M’s commercial graphics film from damage during shipping.
Since the endcaps are strong and sturdy, they can be used multiple times. They have been reused more than 19,000 times in 2022 and overall, the effort has diverted more than 50,000 endcaps from landfills.
The reuse cycle starts with 3M producing commercial graphics film and transporting it to Vomela for use. Vomela collects the endcaps and sends them to Quality Products, a non-profit that employs special needs workers in Nevada, Missouri.
Once the endcaps arrive at Quality Products, they are cleaned and sorted before being dropped off at the nearby 3M Nevada plant’s receiving dock. The receiving clerk at the 3M Nevada plant creates a load ticket for the endcaps and they’re stored and available for reuse by 3M.
Mike Sherman, director of area application engineering in 3M’s Commercial Solutions Division, believes there are more opportunities for similar sustainability partnerships.
"With other large, volume-driven partner companies – who have similar goals – this could be a way to expand our relationships," he said, pointing out additional endcap recycling efforts that are in progress throughout the company.
3M and Vomela continue looking for sustainable solutions in packaging. 3M’s Commercial Solutions Division has worked with a group of students from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, to design a reusable crate system for transport and storage of jumbo film rolls. Current crates are wooden and bulky and require a disassembly step by Vomela. The goal is to save time, money and trees.