Totally TUB-ular: Purina’s circular economy in action

December 12, 2019

Feed Tub Recycling

By Jackie Koppe, Land O’Lakes, Inc. Blog

Used feed tubs are recycled into eco-friendly solutions that give back to the community

Between a pair of buildings at our Land O’Lakes, Inc. headquarters in Arden Hills, Minnesota, is a bench. It’s your typical park bench, brown and nondescript.
Yet there is something special about it. This bench is made using recycled Purina® feed tubs. You know the ones — the big red tubs with our iconic Checkerboard printed on the side. They house nutritional supplements for cattle — products such as Accuration®, Protein Blocks, and Wind and Rain® Minerals.
Once the cattle have licked the tubs clean, farmers and ranchers might use them for storage. Or planters. Or even tote bags. But for the most part, they are stacked high in the field and kept out of the way.
Until now. Because Purina Animal Nutrition wants to be part of a responsible solution. But what do you do with the tubs?
You recycle them. And turn them into something useful.

“As our feed tub product line continues to grow, we are increasingly aware of the responsibility and opportunity to create more of a closed loop system,” says Dave Hoogmoed, executive vice president and president, Purina Animal Nutrition. “We will strive to walk the talk on this issue.”

How It Works

Purina and Wilco partnered and piloted a “Tub Return Program” in conjunction with Check-R-Board Days in September and offered customers discounts on new feed tubs if they brought back any old ones — including competitors’ — to be recycled. The used tubs were then sent to a plastic lumber manufacturer for portions of them to be recycled into benches.
“With the overwhelming success of our ongoing feed bag recycle program and commitment to ‘doing what’s right’ for our customers and environment, the feed tub recycle event was a no brainer for Wilco,” says Trent Ricksger, merchandising manager for Wilco Farm Stores. “We sell a lot of tubs each year and, until now, our customers had few options for disposing of them. Wilco is excited for these tubs to come back full circle in the form of benches that we are planning to proudly have at our stores.”
The tubs from the pilot are chipped, melted, extruded into panels, then assembled into benches for Wilco and other facilities.

Looking to the Future

“Benches are just the beginning,” says Tanya Dowda, director of Sourcing, Business Alignment. We are leveraging the Feed Advisory Council and Emerging Leaders Dealer Platform and plan to expand the recycling program in 2020 and beyond.”

The strength of the partnership between Land O’Lakes and Wilco has been integral to the pilot’s success.
“Wilco’s Board of Directors, membership and employees are aligned on a strategy to seek out opportunities that help our customers support the environment,” says Sam Bugarsky, Wilco’s president and CEO. “Land O Lakes has been our most engaged partner here – they led the way with strategies and support for feed bag recycling and now this new feed tub program. We wouldn’t be having the success we’ve had without their leadership here.”
“This tub recycle program is an exciting example of our intentions and effort,” says Dave. “We are also thankful to have a partner as strong as Wilco.”

It’s also a nod to the circular economy concept.
“This is an excellent example of the circular economy in action. Within the supply chain ecosystem, vendors, service providers, manufacturers, customers and consumers are vital for the success,” says Yone Dewberry, SVP and chief supply chain officer. “Wilco’s partnership with Purina on tub recycling is the critical connection that makes this work.”
Purina looks forward to expanding the recycling program in 2020 to California as well as the Southwest & Northeast, including a few of our lab and zoo customers.

Our Next Innovative Idea

We’re not done exploring other innovation solutions.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to engage with our customers, and these consumers are looking for brands that act more human, more responsibly and with purpose,” says Scott Schraufnagel, director of Integrated Marketing Communications.
“When it came to sharing our ‘tub’ lumber story we wanted to do something that was inspired by our purpose — unlocking the greatest potential of every animal,” he continues. “This is where the idea of creating floating chicken coop was born. We’re taking this highly durable material and using it to build a flood-fighting coop that can help save chickens in times of crisis.”