Cleaning up


ur goal at both Bro-Tex and Midwest Floating Island is to help make the planet cleaner and greener. That’s what we’re about —recycling materials as a way to help clean up the planet.

For 27 years, I’ve been passionate about growing the legacy my father and grandfather created at Bro-Tex. We manufacture a wide range of cleaning wipes and recycle carpet, which is then used in new carpet and plastic resins. The amount of carpet we recycled last year saved the United States more than 1 million gallons of oil.

"Communication is key when growing a business, especially hiring good people who can talk things through and share ideas to solve problems."

While researching ways to use the PET [polyethylene terephthalate] from carpets we recycle, I learned about Floating Island International’s BioHaven Floating Treatment Wetlands, which remove pollutants from ponds, lakes and rivers and restore valuable wetland habitat. I was excited about this innovative approach for using recycled materials to help the environment. It seemed like a natural complement to what we do.

Midwest Floating Island is a licensee of Floating Island International. We manufacture islands that are constructed of durable, nontoxic, postconsumer plastics and vegetated with native plants. The islands bio-mimic natural wetlands but have more surface area. This expedites biological activity to clean polluted waters and provide habitat for fish, waterfowl and other aquatic species.

Cleaning upBecause this is a new, innovative technology, we have had a steep learning curve. We’ve overcome it by reading a lot, networking, and attending conferences and education sessions. The business needs are different for Floating Wetlands than for the Bro-Tex side because we are selling a solution, not a commodity. There are many more stakeholders dealing with water quality, such as natural resources departments, cities, watershed boards and homeowners. The buying decision is more complex and longer than purchasing a cleaning product. 

Communication is key when growing a business, especially hiring good people who can talk things through and share ideas to solve problems. Starting a new business is information overload, so you need to learn to adapt as new information keeps coming.

NEXT: Focus and freedom »

Arlys Freeman ’84
President, Bro-Tex Inc. and Midwest Floating Island

Arlys Freeman, third-generation leader of Bro-Tex, has expanded her family business’s recycling efforts by launching Midwest Floating Island, an artificial wetland that cleans polluted water systems.