By CINDY TOOPES
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — There's nothing like good partners who team up and improve the world around them.
Tenco Industries and John Deere Ottumwa Works have teamed up to improve the way Tenco workers handle all the containers they receive for recycling and other uses.
Their latest venture together is improving "the line," which is a conveyor belt that moves pop cans and other containers along to the worker waiting to send it on to the appropriate recycling box.
Dixie Merritt, Tenco's vocational director, said Tuesday that John Deere Ottumwa Works donated two big factory fans that blow a power stream of air into the area where workers sort the containers.
"They blow air a long ways. Last summer it was so hot that it was hard to breathe in here," Merritt said. "So we decided to cool them down. Kids love the work and doing anything they can."
Andy Hansen, executive director of John Deere Ottumwa Works, also sent Larry "Buzz" Handling to help Bob Merritt of Tenco with the glass crusher. Glass containers like beer bottles were easier to recycle when pulverized.
Merritt said the workers had their own work station and seemed to focus better. She also noted the new system was cleaner but also cost effective, and the bottle count was accurate.
They also set up a can sorting station where people can bring them in clear plastic bags.
"There's no glass in the bags. We used to worry about broken glass, but there's no worry now," Merritt said. "And the individuals we serve are excited to see that."
Due to the update on the equipment and procedures, Tenco will most likely attract new job contracts, she added.
Benjamin Wright, the executive director of Tenco, said the Deere workers "put in time and effort and we appreciate it." John Deere donated all the equipment and Tenco bought the conveyor belt, the sorter and the container counters. Then Deere "retro-fitted" the whole setup.
Wright also noted the changes took all the hand sorting out of the process and productivity has increased 30 percent.
"We want to keep up with the public," Wright said. "We take in 130,000 containers per day."
Wright said the changes will allow Tenco to keep up. In the past, the workers couldn't keep up because they always had to sort the items.
To help cover with the cost of the new equipment, Legacy Foundation provided grant money for the project.
"This is a great experience to see the Legacy Foundation support a local nonprofit organization and cooperate with a local business like John Deere Ottumwa Works," Wright said. "This will enhance life and make it easier for the public to bring in cans."