Writer: Kim Kisner

Companies Get Creative: Developing Golf Tees from Plastic Fencing

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Published On June 11, 2024

Wixom-based Schupan began in 1968 as a six-person scrap metal recycler. Today, the company has 600 employees and offers multiple services related to metals and plastic, including recycling, fabrication, and materials trading. Schupan also provides sustainable events planning – planning, managing, and executing sustainable efforts for sporting events, festivals, conferences, and businesses, among others.


Jessica Loding, Schupan’s chief sustainability officer and director of events, said this segment of the industry is growing as more businesses and organizations seek assistance in creating more sustainable events.


SBN Detroit interviewed Loding about her work in this area and the industry trends.


Q: Schupan was incorporated in 1968. Give us a little background about the company and how it’s evolved.


A: Schupan started as a metal recycling company in Kalamazoo and has grown to handle beverage container recycling nationwide. We also broker materials internationally, have a multimillion-dollar inventory of aluminum and plastic parts that we sell to manufacturers, help manage the disposition of electronics, and offer sustainable event management services.


Q: How has recycling evolved through the years in your experience?


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A: The industry has grown vastly over the last couple of decades as more and more people and businesses realize the benefits of recycling, from the perspective of climate change and the creation of the circular economy. As technology has developed and end markets for commodities have expanded, the industry has realized substantial growth to the benefit of all parties.


Q: Tell us more about your Sustainable Event Management Services.


A: Schupan was an early adopter of these services, and only a dozen or so companies specialize in event recycling. We support various events, including music festivals, art fairs, conferences, sporting events, casinos, hotels, community events, and business events.


Q: Why do you think businesses should adopt sustainable events?

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A: Consumers expect companies to operate with a focus on the environment, their carbon footprint, and their recycling efforts. So, companies that embrace sustainability can have a more meaningful engagement with customers.


Entities and businesses that go above and beyond to create new ways of thinking and acting around sustainability can develop a great brand story. We have partnered with some to pioneer some really interesting new recycling techniques.


Q: What is an example of this?


A: We worked with Dow last year and its Great Lakes Bay Invitational to develop golf tees from the plastic mesh fencing used at the venue. We partnered with Evolve Golf, Bull Engineered Products, and KW Plastics to turn the mesh into pellets and then mold the pellets into tees.


Q: What are the biggest challenges that businesses face when it comes to sustainable event planning and management?


A: The first challenge is the economics. It takes money, and budgets don’t always allow for the cash flow needed. They often rely on sponsorship money to provide funding and advance the programs.


The second is the availability of services. They need to locate labor, have resources to support the efforts, find a waste hauler, and more, but that takes time and effort and can be a challenge.


Q: Are you seeing more companies wanting this service?


A: Yes, we’ve seen a large increase in inquiries for services over the last couple of years, especially since the pandemic. I think it made people more aware. We are now receiving more calls than we are making on the business development side, which is nice to see.


Q: How has sustainable event management evolved over the time Schupan has been involved in it?


A: Sustainable event management used to be called event recycling. It focused on bottles, cans, and food waste. Now, it encompasses much more. It goes beyond waste reduction to calculating the carbon footprint, identifying carbon reductions, water conservation planning, and community integration. It’s exciting to see how it’s grown.

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Q: What are the most impactful things businesses can do to make an event more sustainable?


A: Any event can include basic recycling to divert items from landfills. Events, in general, have huge economic value—bringing local and out-of-town people into the community to dine, shop, and spend time is important.


Q: What trends are you seeing with the businesses you work with?


A: More and more events are aligning with corporate sponsors, a great way for businesses to get involved and gain recognition. This is a big shift. Corporations want to align with sustainability programming with public facing. It’s a nice shift.


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