The TharpeRobbins Co. Reaches a New Plateau in Environmental Responsibility

Sept. 1, 2009
Operating “green” and reducing waste go hand-in-hand for TharpeRobbins, a leader in the managed employee reward and recognition industry.

Thanks to controlled spraying to reduce emissions and a closed-loop water system that allows for a tremendous reduction in water usage, TharpeRobbins Co.'s manufacturing facility in Attleboro, Mass., is a model of environmental responsibility. The facility produces emblems, jewelry and insignia such as pins, tie tacks, medallions and rings that employers use to recognize employee achievements.

“In the past, a greater amount of coating was used and as you walked through the plant, you might see some of the spray,” says Kevin Hustler, director of operations and facility management for TharpeRobbins. “Now, we gather the jewelry together into a space the size of a small dinner plate to achieve full efficiency with every stroke of the gun, drastically reducing the amount of spray and enabling us to tightly control our emissions.”

The new spraying policies have reduced the yearly hazardous emissions from under 3 tons to only .067 tons per year, with an annual goal of fewer than .030 tons. The result is that the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) no longer requires the facility to operate under a restricted emissions status.

“Among manufacturers, it is a coveted position due to the high standards of the organization,” says Joseph Viveiros, vice president of manufacturing for TharpeRobbins. “This new classification places the Attleboro facility on a more responsible and eco-friendly level with the DEP.”

In annual DEP inspections since 2005, the facility has controlled up to 99 percent of all emissions, including volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants and particulates. Because of its minimal emissions, TharpeRobbins has been granted approval to operate additional paint spray booths for manufacturing emblems, jewelry and insignia.

“Operating the maximum of six spray booths further eliminates waste because each booth is dedicated to the use of a distinct type of coating. Whereas one booth may spray a clear lacquer, another sprays baked lacquer and a third, a spray adhesive,” Hustler explains. “When coatings are not changed, cross contamination is limited, further reducing our product rejection level to about one percent.”

TharpeRobbins also continually inspects its spray guns to make sure they are metered properly with the correct air mixture to ensure smooth coatings.


For 20 years, TharpeRobbins has had a closed-loop, water recycling system in place, ensuring a 98.3 percent reduction in water usage from 500,000 gallons to just 650 gallons a week.

“Our company was one of the first in this industry to go to zero discharge back in 1989. We do not release any process water to the sewer system,” Hustler says.

The system is the industrial version of a desalinization filtration system, which uses reverse osmosis pressure to force water through a membrane, retaining the metal ions on one side while allowing pure water to pass through.

Many companies wishing to incorporate a closed-loop water system contact the DEP to inquire about similar plant systems. DEP officials often direct them to TharpeRobbins as a model for waste reduction in many forms.

“We have demonstrated that our closed-loop system has more than paid for itself,” Hustler says. “Company representatives across the country over a wide range of industries visit our plant to learn how to set up similar environmentally friendly processes that will save money.”


TharpeRobbins has a number of other environmentally friendly practices in place as well. The bottom line? The holistic approach taken throughout the company is saving landfills and as well as dollars.

“As an industry leader, TharpeRobbins is committed to pursuing sound environmental practices,” says Viveiros. “With many of these initiatives already in place, we are constantly seeking new ways to further minimize our industrial footprint.”

Adds Hustler, “We are proud to say we now only empty our eight-yard, open-top dumper for trash and 50-yard compactor three times a year because most of what we use is recycled or re-used. Our employees have such a great sense of pride and ownership that many will conduct their own recycling drives throughout the year to collect items like aluminum and cardboard.”

Here are some of the steps taken by TharpeRobbins that can easily be implemented by other companies:

  • Recycling: Recycling all paper in the TharpeRobbins' facilities produces an average of 12 to 20 tons a year. According to the National Recycling Coalition, each ton (2,000 pounds) of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water. Collection bins are placed in all facilities to recycle waste paper, cans and bottles. All new packing material is 100 percent recycled and all incoming packing materials are reused.

  • Biodegradable Packaging: To help save landfills, most packing peanuts are dissolvable soy- or corn-based. A majority of the trays used in the packaging are made of biodegradable foam instead of traditional plastic to further reduce waste. Packaging for the company's popular Omni program now is fully recyclable. Booklets are made using clear envelopes that are completely recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. Omni boxes and mini boxes are made of recycled materials and the boxes themselves have many other uses. Also, many of the materials are printed with soy-based ink.

  • Lighting: Light bulbs in all facilities are non-mercury bearing and recyclable. The company has a “100 percent Lights Off Policy” throughout all facilities to conserve energy when rooms are not in use.

  • Technology: Upgraded LCD computers, servers and hardware are all energy efficient rated.

  • Drinking Water: The Attleboro facility has been named as a permanent host site for drinking water training in the northeast by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC). The 6-week course taught at the Attleboro facility introduces attendees to basic information about the operation of municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“Being named as a host site is a tremendous step in our commitment to environmental affairs by providing local operators a convenient site to further their education,” says Brett Tharpe, president and chief executive officer of TharpeRobbins. “It's an honor to be chosen since this will allow Tharpe- Robbins to continue our tradition of environmental leadership.”


The average tenure for a TharpeRobbins employee involved in its manufacturing operations is about 12 years. As a result, product quality is extremely high.

“Out of thousands of pieces shipped monthly, only 10 to 15 pieces are returned,” Hustler says. “We attribute much of this success to the high level of experience, longevity and consistency among our operators.”

The company's “labor loan” program cross trains employees from many different departments. For example, polishers are trained to set stone and platers to sodder. This back-up system helps keep the production process in full swing and gives employees the opportunity to continue work by switching between departments if production lags in one area. Plant employees are even trained to support the office staff if necessary.

“Not only is our labor loan program important for production and on-time delivery, it also encourages an appreciation for the entire process and that includes greater ownership and appreciation for our commitment to preserving the environment wherever we are able,” he says.

Anthony Luciano is the senior vice president of sales and marketing for the TharpeRobbins Co. Inc., a global leader in the managed recognition and rewards industry. He played an instrumental role during the merger of the Tharpe Co. with the Robbins Co. in 2007. Luciano received his MBA from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He holds a bachelor's degree in business economics from the State University of New York at Oneonta. He can be reached at [email protected] or 888-381-7418. Visit to learn more.

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