Avangard Innovative, a plastics recycler based in Houston, has partnered with Hi-Cone Worldwide, supplier of ring carrier multipackaging systems based in Itasca, Illinois, to launch RingRecycleMe, a program for recycling Hi-Cone’s plastic ring carriers for beverages, which are made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
Hi-Cone says RingRecycleMe is a free recycling program to ensure that consumers can recycle their ring carriers through RingRecycleMe.com or by dropping them off at participating retail locations later this year.
Through the partnership, Avangard will supply postconsumer recycled resin (PCR) pellets from its NaturaPCR recycling facilities to Hi-Cone for the production of its redesigned RingCycles packaging. Hi-Cone says this process reduces the use of virgin plastic in half.
Shawn Welch, vice president of Hi-Cone Worldwide, says current U.S. curbside recycling programs seldom accept LDPE and ways to process that material. “We were looking for solutions that would provide us with postconsumer recycled content,” Welch says of the partnership with Avangard for RingRecycleMe. “We had to connect with a recycler, and we said we’d be in the market for buying recycled content. Avangard saw an opportunity to corner this market with us, knowing they had a customer like Hi-Cone would be in need of this content over a longer period of time. We’re partnering to make an investment to expand into the postconsumer plastics space.”
Welch adds that Hi-Cone surveyed its consumers and learned that 91 percent find plastic recycling to be beneficial. “We know that a market is out there; our customers appreciate this effort. We want to be sure we’re providing yet another channel by which consumers can get plastic rings back to us to put in product.”
The company adds that its plastic ring carriers are an alternative to paperboard that were developed in the 1960s to prevent deforestation. Hi-Cone is currently working on a sustainable solution for its ring carriers that is 100 percent recyclable, biodegradable or compostable by 2025.
“We are excited to be a part of the RingRecycleMe initiative in partnership with Hi-Cone, as we both share a commitment to keeping plastic and other recyclables out of landfills and the environment,” says Rick Perez, CEO of Avangard Innovative. “Our participation leverages proprietary technology to measure, manage and monetize retailers’ sustainability programs, maximizing the volume of ring carriers and other LDPE plastics reclaimed, recycled, and transformed into postconsumer resin (PCR). By using the PCR pellets to manufacture new ring carriers, Hi-Cone and Avangard Innovative will effectively create a circular economy solution.”
“Our partnership with Avangard Innovative is important to Hi-Cone because we’re working together to transform our product portfolio and build a circular economy for plastic so that this material does not become waste,” Welch says. “At the same time, with the launch of our RingRecycleMe initiative, we’re giving consumers the resources and confidence that their ring carriers will be recycled and reused over and over again to cut plastic production during this pandemic. We see this as a positive step in the right direction.”
Hi-Cone also partners with organizations around the world including the Ocean Conservancy and TerraCycle and is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Global Commitment to advance the circular economy and keep plastics in use as a valuable resource.
In Europe, Welch says Hi-Cone is currently working with TerraCycle, Trenton, New Jersey, to collect and recycle plastic ring carriers. He says there are about 600 collection points for ring carriers in Europe, adding that he hopes to see that kind of construct in the U.S. around the new partnership with Avangard.
In addition, Hi-Cone is working to boost the amount of recycled content in its ring carriers. Welch says the company is working to use about 55 percent recycled content in its product for the European market with goals to hit that mark in the U.S. and Mexico in 2021.