Promo Companies Respond to Recycling Crisis

Las Vegas, Nevada, 2021-Apr-08 — /EPR Network/ — The United States is experiencing a recycling crisis. The trouble stems, in significant part, from China’s decision in 2018 to restrict imports of certain recyclables, including most used plastics and mixed paper, such as office paper and junk mail.

That was a big problem for the U.S., which had been shipping massive quantities of such recyclables to China. As a result, some communities in the U.S. and other nations, including Canada, “are running out of room to store the mounting stockpiles [of recyclables] and have stopped collecting plastic, paper products or glass,” Bloomberg News reported. “Some places in the U.S., Australia and Canada are sending material to landfills or burning it.”

Such practices present environmental hazards. Still, some private companies are stepping up to mitigate the impact. Last year, for example, Mars, PepsiCo and Unilever vowed to reduce their use of new plastic in favor of used plastic.
Forward-thinking promotional products companies are getting in on the sustainability initiatives, too. The latest example comes from Visstun (asi/49716).

On Friday, the Las Vegas, NV-based supplier announced that all of its paper cups, containers and paper lids contain Sustana’s EnviroLife post-consumer recycled fiber. It had been Visstun’s goal for 2019 to make all the products using 30% recycled fiber. But Visstun exceeded that goal: As of Dec. 17, 2019, the products contained 35% post-consumer recycled content.

This eco-friendly upgrade applies to all paper cup, container, and lid products, including Visstun’s paper hot, cold and microwave cups and containers, as well as its Vx2 double wall cups and P2 paper lids.

“We felt it was too important a step to only go halfway. So, at no additional cost to our customers, we jumped in with both feet, upgrading all our material. The response has been awesome,” said Joe Davis, Visstun’s national sales director. “With this first major step towards more sustainable products behind us, we’re continuing our research and testing of advanced eco-friendly materials. We’re looking for that perfect sustainable cup.”

The U.S.’s recycling challenges were an important factor in motivating Visstun to get greener. “Right now, the United States has a recycling crisis,” said James Lake, Visstun’s cup production manager. “Consumers are recycling paperboard products more than ever, but there’s nowhere for it to go. Visstun decided that providing a use for post-consumer recycled fiber in our cups and containers is an important, socially responsible first step.”

The Nevada firm might be onto something. Leading industry executives have said that sustainability will be a top trend in the promotional products industry in 2020 and beyond. That was backed up by trend-spotting at the ASI Show Orlando. The boots-on-the-ground research revealed that suppliers are placing a strong emphasis on eco-friendlier options. For instance, several apparel companies, including Top 40 supplier SanMar (asi/84863), debuted T-shirts made from recycled materials. The new Re-Tee from SanMar’s District brand is 100% recycled, made from plastic bottles and cotton scraps. “It takes cotton scraps, combines them with recycled polyester, and creates a new yarn and a new T-shirt that doesn’t use water (or) new dyes. It’s one of the most environmentally friendly T-shirts that you can have, and it feels really great, soft and easy to wear,” said Jeremy Lott, SanMar president.

Other industry firms have been weaving a focus on recycling into their business models and products. Founded in 2014, Upcycle Goods (asi/92767) has become a market leader in using recycled materials in its promo products. The company has worked with major brands like Microsoft, Apple, HP, AT&T, GE, Home Depot, Boeing, Dr. Pepper, Google and more.

Meanwhile, Garyline (asi/55990), known for its sports bottles (which make up 50% of its core business), has recently developed a line of bottles made of 100% post-consumer recycled content.

The raw material is sourced from municipal recycling facilities (using everything from milk jugs to water and sports drink bottles) and then separated into different components (bottle, label and cap), cleaned and re-pelletized. The pellets are taken to Garyline’s manufacturing facilities where they’re molded into food-safe plastic in different colors, styles and thicknesses. “There’s a huge and growing market for them,” said Scott Denny, vice president of sales & marketing for the Bronx, NY-based supplier. “We recently produced a big order for an outdoor music festival that had refilling stations. They weren’t selling bottled water in single-use containers – you had to buy a reusable bottle and fill it. There was a lot less waste and everyone walked away with a bottle printed with the event and sponsor logos. It was very eco-friendly, and a very good promotion for the sponsors of the bottles.”

Denny said he sees this line of bottles really taking off as younger buyers make more decisions about product sourcing and branding on truly environmentally friendly products. “Young end-buyers, like 23 or 24 years old, don’t have the economic buying power yet,” he says. “But they will.”

Meanwhile, Grossman Marketing Group (asi/215205), a $35 million distributorship based in Somerville, MA, last year launched SwagCycle. The new startup initiative focuses on helping businesses manage the lifecycle of their logoed merchandise in a responsible, ethical and affordable way, according to Ben Grossman, the distributorship’s co-president and founder of the firms’ Green Marketing and Sustainability Practice.

To enable organizations to address the sustainability challenges presented by obsolete merch, SwagCycle offers a three-step process: Assess the inventory of unwanted items; confirm brand guidelines to determine if excess items can live on with charitable partners or should be recycled; and match items with an appropriate charity or one of Grossman’s recycling partners.

While such efforts alone won’t solve America’s recycling challenges, the initiatives from Grossman, Visstun and others in promo aim to contribute toward a solution. Visstun intends to keep pursuing the creation of products that are more environmentally friendly.

“There are a lot of important pieces to the eco-friendly ‘green’ puzzle, and using renewable and recycled resources is just the beginning,” the company said in a statement. “Visstun has explored many different options and is working to get to a cup that is compostable or biodegradable and Made-in-the-USA. Stay tuned for future developments.” Learn more about Visstun’s commitment to green here.

Founded in 2007, Visstun launched what it says was the world’s first hi-definition convolute cups. The technology improved traditional cup imprinting methods by first printing high-quality images on flat sheets and then forming them into cups on custom-engineered machinery.

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