LONDONDERRY — Keeping her focus on strengthening the state’s workforce and promoting green business practices, Gov. Maggie Hassan praised the efforts of the Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England during a tour of the Londonderry production center Wednesday morning.
Hassan spent about two hours at the Symmes Drive facility, where she chatted with employees and witnessed the production process firsthand.
Built in 1989, the production center has expanded dramatically over the years, with its initial 150,000 square feet having since grown to nearly 500,000 square feet.
The Londonderry center employs just over 100 workers.
Coca-Cola of Northern New England has 10 distribution centers spread across New England and upstate New York and is the fourth largest coke bottler in the country, according to its website.
The company is owned by Kirin Holdings Co., the Japan-based maker of Kirin Ichiban beer, and employs about 1,000 people.
CCNNE president Mark Francoeur said sustainability is one of the company’s top priorities, noting that the 92 percent of everything that comes into the plant is eventually recycled.
“It’s about saving water, saving energy,” General Manager Rick Neal added. “Right now we’re recycling everything from bottles to aluminum to stretch film.”
David Rowell, president of Foss Manufacturing in Hampton, said his company uses recycled PET beverage bottles to produce Eco-fi, a polyester fiber used to make clothing, carpets and other textiles.
“A lot of the bottles we purchase come from companies right here in New Hampshire,” Rowell said. “Companies like Coca-Cola.”
Neal said of his company commitment to maintaining a green eco-footprint “is simply the right thing to do and people want it.”
Hassan said she was pleasantly surprised to learn how used soda bottles are transformed into synthetic fabrics and ultimately become pricy pieces of clothing made companies like Patagonia and the North Face.
“It’s important to remind people of the other side (of recycling),” she said.
CCNNE director of capabilities Mike Elmer said encouraging consumers to recycle is a critical aspect of keeping production jobs in the Granite State.
“The more we can convince people to recycle, the more products we can make in New Hampshire,” Elmer said. “And we happen to think plastic is an amazing material. There’s just so much that can be done with it.”
Hassan expressed concern over the state’s current recycling rates, noting that such data isn’t currently collected due to budget constraints.
“It’s a challenge right now,” she said. “We don’t have enough resources there to invest in data collections. At the same time, it’s so important to encourage people to recycle and to understand the benefits.”
Sustainability manager Ray Dube said when it comes to recycling initiatives, education is the main key.
“People don’t always realize what can be recycled,” Dube said. “It’s the tomato containers, the spice containers — the things you don’t automatically think of.”