HydroBlox Technologies
HydroBlox Technologies uses plastic scrap to make its stormwater management planks.
HydroBlox Technologies

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, HydroBlox form plastics recycling joint venture

The groups will construct a plastics recycling facility near Muskegon, Michigan.

HydroBlox Technologies and Goodwill Industries of West Michigan (GIWM) have formed a plastics recycling joint venture. The groups are working to select equipment as well as a recycling site near Muskegon, Michigan.

“In keeping with Goodwill’s focus on sustainability and the triple-bottom line, we are excited to launch a new business line that diverts landfill-bound plastic, while also providing good-paying jobs,” GIWM President and CEO Jeanette Hoyer says.

Based in Pittsburgh, HydroBlox Technologies manufactures products that aid in stormwater drainage infrastructure and are made from 100 percent recycled plastic. According to GIWM, HydroBlox uses a proprietary mechanical recycling process that size reduces and processes difficult-to-recycle plastic to form them into 7.5-foot stormwater management planks or noodles that filter and direct the flow of water. The planks are used in road and trail projects, retaining walls, hydroponic farms, solar fields, green roofs and other applications.  

HydroBlox Technologies uses low-grade, commingled and mixed color plastic that typically gets landfilled. The manufacturing process uses no glue, binders or any hazardous materials in the process. According to GIWM, the core product is a plank that when buried in the ground transports water without the typical problems of becoming impacted with silt, sand or soil. Planks are used for drainage, road bases, retaining walls, hydroponics, solar fields and other applications. Additionally, HydroBlox’s green roof product allows for plant growth without soil.

According to GIWM, the company has been seeking solutions to keep its waste out of landfills for years. GIWM says Goodwill Business Development Director Nick Carlson works closely with the Michigan Recycling Coalition and was introduced to the HydroBlox team via the NextCycle Michigan team. NextCycle Michigan is an incubator led by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy that leverages public and private sector assistance along with investment to accelerate Michigan's recycling and waste recovery system.

“HydroBlox checks all the boxes for us in terms of evaluating a new startup,” Carlson says. “Recycling unwanted plastic into useful, environmentally friendly stormwater products will reduce Goodwill landfill fees, provide good jobs, while generating revenue to support Goodwill employment and training programs.”

“We are thrilled to begin what I understand is a first-of-a-kind joint venture for Goodwill that will not only divert plastic from landfills but bring new jobs and training opportunities,” says HydroBlox Technologies CEO Ed Grieser.

GIWM says the companies hope to find a 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot property for the joint venture. The companies expect to hire five to six people to run the operation and will use much of GIWM’s existing staff to help with management and business functions.

“GIWM manages around 20 million pounds of donations on an annual basis,” GIWM says in a statement to Recycling Today. “Only a portion (approximately 30 percent) of these materials end up being resold through our traditional retail channels. The rest of the materials are either sold overseas, sold into recycling markets or sent to landfill when items are broken or otherwise unsalable. The HydroBlox partnership gives us the opportunity to all but eliminate our plastic waste while creating good-paying jobs. It will also allow us to generate revenue to support our job training and placement programs.

“This partnership is a perfect fit for several reasons. First, we share the value of environmental preservation and the desire to make a positive impact on the environment, be it through advanced stormwater management or recycling. Additionally, GIWM has a goal of not only eliminating waste coming through our donation channel but transforming that waste into final products that advance our mission. The quality of the donations we receive at Goodwill has been decreasing as people find more opportunities to earn value from their old stuff. As a result, we have seen an increase in lower value materials. It is essential that we innovate to earn the most value from the donations that we have been entrusted with. This HydroBlox partnership is one way that we can do that.”