While COVID-19 continues to disrupt local recycling, two companies launched a partnership this week to prevent some of the 9 million tons of plastic waste from ending up in the environment.
Hi-Cone Worldwide, a multi-packaging provider for the beverage industry based in Itasca, Ill., is partnering with Houston, Texas-based Avangard Innovative to launch a “manufacturer-led” consumer recycling program in the U.S.
“Hi-Cone has created a consumer recycling initiative to promote the recycling of plastic ring carriers. Our ring carriers are usually recyclable wherever #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene used in bags, film, and lighter plastics) or mixed plastics are collected,” says Shawn Welch, vice president and general manager of Hi-Cone. “However, we recognize more needs to be done to support collection services and recycling infrastructure.”
Where ring carriers are not collected, Hi-Cone has put a variety of free consumer recycling programs in place. The company partnered with Avangard Innovative in the U.S. to ensure that consumers can recycle their ring carriers and give them a second life through the RingRecycleMe program.
“As partners, we are working with Hi-Cone to address the current plastic waste crisis through a circular approach that keeps ring carriers in a recycled production loop, and out of landfills and the environment. Avangard Innovative reclaims ring carriers from grocery chains and through bottles and beverage distributors post-delivery,” says Rick Perez, CEO of Avangard Innovative.
Avangard reclaims them and transforms them into PCR pellets for Hi-Cone to reuse in its production process of RingCycles, a multi-packaging solution that contains +50% PCR content.
“By encouraging recycling over waste, we can keep plastic ring carriers out of landfills, and transform them into a valuable resource, helping us to collectively close the loop on recycling,” says Welch.
As part of the RingRecycleMe program, Hi-Cone and Avangard are working with partners to implement collection programs in various sectors with high opportunity to capture ring carriers.
“This comes at a time when food delivery and the use of disposable plastics are on the rise and U.S. consumers do not understand or trust plastic recycling,” says Perez. “The launch of the RingRecycleMe program gives consumers the confidence that their ring carriers will be recycled and reused to reduce virgin plastic production and lower environmental impacts.”
Avangard supplies Hi-Cone with post-consumer recycled content (PCR), which allowed Hi-Cone to develop and launch the first phase of RingCycles.
“With this launch, we then developed the State of Plastic Report, which allowed us to expand on the challenges on the recycling community. From our findings, Hi-Cone took the step to partner with Avangard to continue to make sure ring carriers are given a second life and don’t end up as waste,” says Welch.
Hi-Cone has a science-based approach to evaluating different packaging solutions.
“We work with Franklin Associates to conduct Life Cycle Assessments, which is standard for us in quantifying the environmental impacts of the different packaging solutions we put forward,” says Welch. “Our work with Avangard Innovative is part of our effort to close the loop on our own supply chain for PCR materials by boosting our recycling programs. We’ve had a Ring Leaders recycling program, which works with companies, like Disney and Southwest Airlines, schools, and community organizations to collect and recycle ring carriers.”
To date, Hi-Cone has recycled more than 2.7 million pounds of ring carriers, and is expanding these efforts to engage consumers directly.
“As a manufacturer of ring carriers, we want to close the loop on our product so that it does not end up in the environment,” says Welch. “Now, where #4 LDPE can’t be easily recycled through curbside collection or drop off programs, there are several options for consumers through our RingRecycleMe program.”
Similar to Hi-Cone, Avangard works with Dow by providing PCR plastic film pellets that will allow Dow to begin offering PCR-based innovations later this year.
“Avangard’s clout and leverage in implementing programs with large environmental partners enable us to source a high volume of #4 LDPE plastic, including ring carriers and other film plastics, ensuring the feedstocks needed for our partner's demands,” says Perez.
Additionally, in the U.S. and Canada, ring carriers can be recycled where mixed plastics are collected. To make up for insufficient local recycling infrastructure and collection services, Hi-Cone has created a free recycling program. Consumers can now send back their ring carriers through RingRecycleMe.com or drop them off at a participating retail store later this year.