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Herman Miller and VanderWall Brothers Concrete Team Up to Make a Better World

April 25, 2012

Herman Miller, Inc., took another step forward in its journey toward achieving a “Better World” and its Perfect Vision 2020 goals by helping to discover a way to recycle one of the company’s largest landfill items, powdercoat overspray. The collaborative effort marks the culmination of more than seven years of intense research and testing by Herman Miller and VanderWall Brothers Concrete, one of the company’s suppliers.

“This is a testament to the perseverance and determination of our team and suppliers to reduce our impact on the environment while also helping others,” said Gabe Wing, Herman Miller’s Director of Environmental Health and Safety. “It feels pretty darn good to get this done.”

Working with VanderWall Brothers Concrete, Herman Miller and the supplier discovered a way to recycle leftover powdercoat paint into a cement mix used in making counterweights. These counterweights act as ballast, prevent filing and storage units from tipping over when drawers are extended. After more than seven years of testing numerous combinations of powdercoat and cement mix for strength and quality, the two companies discovered a perfect blend that was as strong, and in some tests stronger, as a traditional cement counterweight.

“During our testing we found that the recycled powdercoat actually improves the binding qualities of the cement,” said Paul VanderWall, Vice President of VanderWall Brothers Concrete. “This benefit improved the overall strength of the block.”

Powdercoat is used on a wide variety of furniture solutions, and remaining overspray from the paint process typically ends up going to a landfill. Herman Miller’s new process helps solve an industry-wide problem. The company has decided to share the information with its competitors to make a larger impact.

“Withholding this type of knowledge wouldn’t have been the right thing to do, “ said Tom Egeler, an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist for Herman Miller. “Our ultimate goal is to create a better world, and telling everyone helps ensure we do the most good.”

The idea could prove to be even bigger as VanderWall continues to research recycled powdercoat for use in construction products.

“We discovered that by adding the recycled powdercoat product, the new block was able to slightly repel water which is an obvious benefit in new home or commercial construction projects,” said VanderWall. “We’re currently working with research professors from Western Michigan University who are studying the environmental effects and expect that process to be approved by the end of the year.”

About Herman Miller, Inc.
Herman Miller works for a better world around you—with inventive designs, technologies and related services that improve the human experience wherever people work, heal, learn, and live. Its curiosity, ingenuity, and design excellence create award-winning products and services, resulting in more than $1.6 billion in revenue in fiscal 2011. Innovative business practices and a commitment to social responsibility have also established Herman Miller as a recognized global company. In 2011, Herman Miller again received the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s top rating in its annual Corporate Equality Index and was also cited by FORTUNE as the "Most Admired" company in the contract furniture industry. Herman Miller trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MLHR.

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