For more than three decades, Rineco Chemical Industries (now a branch of Heritage Environmental Services) has served Arkansas and much of the nation, providing environmentally sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. The facility located near Haskell in Benton, AR, employs more than 250 Saline County residents, and is the nation’s largest single-site fuels blending facility in the U.S.
This is an impressive summary for a company that has called Central Arkansas home since 1986, but many local residents don’t really even know what Rineco does.
“We are an innovative waste facility,” said Salina Rivers with the Heritage team in Benton. “We’re not a chemical facility, nor do we manufacture chemicals of any kind. In fact, we don’t deal in pesticides, explosives or radioactive materials at all.”
Instead, Rivers explains, the Benton facility handles common wastes (both solid and liquid) many of us discard without a second thought, converting those materials into a fuel substitute that is then provided to the almost two dozen U.S. cement manufacturers to fire their kilns. “Our fuel blends can be developed from oils, solvents that have gone through a manufacturing process, and products you may find in your garage or your kitchen,” Rivers added.
Through its blending process, Rineco mixes discarded fuel components in compliance with EPA regulations and stores the mix in seven-pound containers. Those containers then serve as an alternative fuel to coal or natural gas when heating the concrete kilns to over 3,000 degrees.
In 2017, Rineco’s business drew the attention of Heritage Environmental Services, an Indianapolis-based business dedicated to combating and solving complex environmental challenges for a safer population and a healthier world.
Founded in 1970, well before environmental regulations began appearing as guidelines for safety, Heritage has grown to more than two dozen locations, with thousands of employees across 18 states. Its array of services includes hazardous waste transportation, treatment, and disposal, along with industry compliance training and emergency response.
In a 2017 news release announcing Rineco’s joining the Heritage family of services, Heritage CEO Jeff Laborsky said, “Rineco’s high-quality fuel blending operation completes Heritage’s waste technology offerings, allowing us to be a one-stop-shop for our customers. This acquisition combines the strengths of Heritage with Rineco’s employee expertise, customer relationships, technologies, and geographic locations.”
This year, Heritage celebrated its 50th anniversary on Earth Day (April 22). While a number of events commemorating the milestone had to be modified for the COVID-19 pandemic, the host of companies still served their communities any way they could.
“(Community service) has always been so important to us,” said Salina Rivers. “Saline County is our home, and it’s such a close-knit community. We’re always looking for ways to help and to give back.”
And it has been an eventful 2020 in the area of philanthropy. Among the initiatives taken up by the Heritage team in Benton during the pandemic, the companies donated $25,000 to 25 food banks nationwide, with particular focus on children and food insecurity.
Additionally, the Benton team donated single-use aprons, nitrile gloves, N95 masks, and alcohol wipes to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Heritage VP Ryan Dossey said of the donations, “The doctors and nurses on the front line deserve the best support that we as a community have to offer, and donating PPE to keep them safe in this fight is of utmost importance in these trying times.”
As part of Earth Day and Heritage’s 50th anniversary, employees at the Benton facility had planned to start a garden of fresh vegetables and herbs. That project had to be postponed for one year, but the team moved forward with other plans to plant two acres of wildflowers, more than 100 live oak and poplar seedlings, and to install two beehives to help boost pollination.
“While we have had to make adjustments because of COVID-19, it has been a great experience for us to remain involved in helping provide PPE to our emergency responders and being able to take part in the anniversary and Earth Day activities.” Rivers said.
Every parcel, every barrel, every pound of waste being processed is an opportunity to improve our natural environment, and Heritage is uncompromising in its pursuit of doing it the right way. This protects our natural state with true sustainability and peace of mind.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme said, “Good decision-making about how we manage the waste we create is one of the most important contributions humanity can make to reduce its impact on the natural world.”
At its core, Heritage exists to reduce, reclaim and ultimately reuse waste materials to improve our environment. Its mission of protecting human health and the world around us is obvious. The past 50 years of unwavering service have created value that will last for years to come.