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No Secrets to Success


Pactiv

By Rachel Dutil • Photos by Jessica McCafferty


Tucked behind the more well-known manufacturer, Georgia Pacific, Pactiv Evergreen turns out millions of pounds of paper products each month. Cup carriers make up 75 percent of its work. While that type of manufacturing has been ongoing at the Plattsburgh site since the 1930s; Pactiv has operated the 167,000-square-foot facility since 1997.


Plant Manager, Brandon Smith, has been with the company for nearly 20 years and, like many in the North Country, he had no idea the plant was there before he was hired. “We are the best kept secret in Plattsburgh,” he said. Smith was working at the U.S. Post Office annex on Veterans Lane — right through the woods from the Pactiv location — when he read a help wanted ad in the newspaper. “I didn’t know it existed,” he said. “I came over here, applied and the rest is history.” 


Production Lines 

Pactiv Evergreen supplies large customers such as McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s, and Wawa with cup carriers – the molded trays that hold four drink cups. It also makes the pint and quart sized berry baskets that fruit is sold in, as well as heavy-duty paper plates for Costco. The facility runs 16 production lines; four make paper plates and the other 12 make the cup carriers and berry baskets. “What we produce is molded fiber,” Smith explained. “We take recycled newspaper and create product out of it. It’s like paper mâché. You’re taking paper and water and mixing it up and then forming something.”


Pallets of baled, recycled newspaper are delivered to the plant daily. Each truck carries about 40,000 pounds of newspaper that is unloaded on tables and then loaded into a big pulper. “We dump it in the pulper, add some water and away it goes,” Smith said. From the pulper, the wet slurry mix moves through several holding tanks before it is formed. The machine uses vacuum to suction the wet mixture into the molds. The product then moves to a drying tower. Twelve minutes later the finished product comes out of the front end. “We’re unique,” Smith offered. “Other facilities in our group have horizontal ovens. Ours is a vertical, three-story machine,probably because that was the technology back in the 1930s and ‘40s.”

Each month, the plant produces 25 million cup carriers and seven million paper plates. “We use 40 percent virgin pulp in the paper plates, but everything else is recycled,” Smith said, noting that the products are biodegradable and compostable. The plant recently transitioned to PFAS-free chemistry and was the first of the 53 North American Pactiv facilities to make the transition. Smith also noted that all the forklifts used in the warehouse are electric, aiding in the company’s efforts to be environmentally conscious.


On average, 11 truckloads of product are shipped out from Plattsburgh each day. Products head to distribution facilities in Canandaigua, NY; San Bernadino, CA; Red Bluff, CA; Covington, GA; and Romeoville, IL. “We hold some product and ship direct to customers, but about 95 percent of our production goes out to distribution centers and then gets delivered to customers from there,” Smith said. 


Career Growth 

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure,” reads a Colin Powell quote painted on the wall in the entryway to the Pactiv building. The quote is well placed in an organization that prides itself on career growth within the company.


Smith started out working on the production lines, as did seven of the ten members of the current leadership team. “I think it helps me from an empathy standpoint, understanding the jobs that my folks are doing out there because I’ve done them all,” Smith said. “We all have a large, vested interest in making sure that Pactiv Evergreen Plattsburgh succeeds. Essentially, we grew up with it.” 


When Smith started at Pactiv in 2004, he was 20 years old. From sorter/packer, he became a team leader and then a shift supervisor. He was promoted to production manager in 2017 and then plant manager in 2021.


Currently, Pactiv Evergreen/Plattsburgh employees 145, but they are actively hiring and hope to reach 160 in 2024. The company is headquartered in Chicago and has approximately 18,000 total employees across its 53 facilities. Smith described the work as typical of most manufacturing jobs. It is fast paced, manual labor on a 12-hour shift schedule. Although manufacturing experience is helpful, all new employees are trained and, as long as candidates have a good work ethic, they will likely do well. Pactiv offers competitive wages and because of the 12-hour shifts, employees work a maximum of 15 or 16 days per month. 


Culture

Everyone that enters the Pactiv production facility or warehouse must adhere to safety protocols including wearing steel toed boots or shoes, a hard hat and safety glasses. A painted yellow railing separates the work area from the walkway. Smith noted that the plant recently held a safety week where they set up carnival games in the warehouse to not only reinforce the importance of safety, but to also show appreciation to employees for 211 days without any workplace accidents or injuries.

Numerous boards line the walls on the walkways celebrating the achievements of employees, recognizing crew members of the month and including fun facts about those employees. “We like doing fun stuff,” Smith noted.


Pactiv Evergreen also promotes community involvement. Staff recently helped serve food at a JCEO event. A tractor trailer load of cans and bottles donated by employees will soon be delivered to the City Police Department, as part of their Cans for Kids drive.


Smith emphasized that he and his team try to create a people-centric culture in the facility. “We have a family first attitude,” he said, noting that he tries to accommodate staff who need time off for family events or emergencies. “It’s a really fun, laid back, family-oriented culture.” Smith concluded that everyone rallies around the company’s five core values.


• Celebrate people,

• Do what’s right,

• Winning together

• Demanding excellence

• Owning it.


Pactiv Evergreen 74 Weed Street ExtensionPlattsburgh, NY 12901518 562-6110



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