Abilities Unlimited takes going green up a notch

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- Abilities Unlimited has several locations around Region 8. In the past, the Jonesboro facility has been assembly orientated besides sorting items for the stores.

Now the mission has changed and so have the job demands.

Darren May, Abilities Regional Director showed me the new compacting equipment that had installed. The crunch of collapsing cardboard and the "pop - pop" of collapsing plastic bags filled the room. May said they have had to make a few changes but it's all for the good.

"Our mission is to create a better living and working environment for people with disabilities so when we create new jobs we are meeting our mission. May said.

This plant, located off of Highway 141 could be one of the greenest plants in Jonesboro.

May, "We're into recycling which we've always done a little bit. Our thrift stores are recycling clothes."

Assembling products used to be big for Jonesboro but May says many of those jobs have now migrated overseas. May says Abilities has embraced industrial recycling in a big way.

They recycle clothing, cardboard, plastic, magazine, books. Even the trucks they use are recycled.

May, "One of the trucks was donated by a local company a few years back. And our newest truck, it was received from federal surplus and it was an army truck."

The trucks go out to local industries and pick up trailer loads of cardboard and plastic.

May, "A couple of our customers we pick up as much as two or three truckloads a week."

Like any industry Abilities' fortunes have ebbed and flowed. May says with the green side they have survived pretty well.

May, "We've just maintained. Probably our increase in jobs has only been 20 percent but completely changing what we do, we've actually kept the jobs."

In addition to local industry, many retailers take advantage of Abilities, to recycle products and keep them out of landfills. And it's more than just cardboard, they also have a major document shredder and they also recycle barrels and plastic buckets. Many of the clothes they are unable to sell in their stores are baled up and shipped out to countries like India, Mexico and even Russia.

"Pretty much anything that can be recycled, is recycled." says May, "Give us a chance here, We are very green here, very green."

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.