Plastic Ingenuity Thermoform Circularity Report

Our Circularity

What is Plastic Ingenuity Doing to Address Sustainability?

Sustainability is a broad –but very important –topic. And a thermoforming plastics packaging company focused on sustainability presents quite the paradox. But the fact remains, too many thermoformed plastics end up in a landfill when they do not have to. At Plastic Ingenuity, we’re focused on making thermoforms more circular.

Salad in Thermoformed Packaging
Custom thermoformed food packaging

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Facts About Thermoforms:

Thermoforms have immense utility across a variety of applications. When you think about it, thermoforms can be found at many touchpoints throughout your day. From playing an essential role in preserving the food we serve to protecting the medical devices we trust. Given thermoforms lightweight nature and relatively low energy to produce and transport, they have lower greenhouse gas emissions per package than alternatives. When you factor in preservation attributes, such as extending the useful life of perishable foods, thermoformed packaging offers significant benefits to society. But the problem remains; we need solutions that keep thermoforms out of landfills so we can continue to reap their benefits.

We’re a plastics company –always will be –but we are on a mission to improve the end-of-life outcomes for the thermoformed plastics we make. As active members of targeted associations highlighted below, we’ll continue to dedicate the resources needed to collaborate, learn, grow, and succeed.

What is Plastic Ingenuity’s process to help me reach our goals?

Part of our circularity goals not only include what Plastic Ingenuity can do but also how we can help those we serve. Through innovation, education, and influence, we work with our customers to reach their internal circularity goals, offering a range of services tailored to each customer.

Here’s how we get things done.

Identify Sustainability Goals
Identify the Goals

First, our dedicated team works with you to identify and refine your sustainability packaging goals.

Sustainable Packaging Assessment
Sustainable Packaging Assessment

Then, we create a Sustainable Packaging Assessment. We discuss design and material choices, analyzing the impact different options have on the environment. Since we’re active members in the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), we’ve engrained design for recycling principles into our package development process.

Create a product Roadmap
Create a Roadmap

Next, we create a roadmap of where you are now, where you want to be and all the steps in between. This intricate plan creates a path to execute actionable results.

Execute your sustainability goals
Execute the Plan

Last – and this is where we shine – we deliver. Your product, our skills, and shared passion of circularity, allows us to produce your final product. We control the entire process from design, extrusion, to delivery, and everything in between, allowing us to achieve our shared goals. If this is a process that sounds beneficial to you, find a few more details here.

Are there examples of this process in action that has shown success?

Glad you asked. We strongly believe that true circularity cannot be achieved without including thermoforms. Our mission as a responsible packaging producer is to create circular solutions that keep thermoforms out of landfills and out of our environment. Here’s a couple examples of how we have worked with our customers to reach their circularity goals.

  • Creminelli Meat and Cheese snacks
    Food Packaging

    The Goal: Incorporate 80% PCR into an existing food tray

    The Process: We dove in and conducted a sustainability assessment focusing on material efficiency, structure selection, and design for recovery. Then, we drafted a sustainability improvement road map in collaboration with Creminelli to determine the best path forward.  We conducted trials and tests to ensure performance.

    The Result: Our engineering experts determined the trays could be downgauged to reduce material usage without compromising performance. Additionally, we also purposed the use of post-consumer recycled content in the tray to improve the circularity.

    The Impact:
    80% PCR Content = 11,284,180 recycled water bottles
    6 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduced
    7% reduction in material use

    For specifics, please click click here.

  • Custom thermoformed packaging design Universal Transport Tray
    Healthcare Packaging

    The Goal: Eliminate shipping damage, decrease material waste, and reduce packaging costs.

    The Process: We needed to develop a delicate, protective, bulk work-in-process solution. We leveraged Eastalite™ copolyester, a novel foamed PETG material. From there, we designed a 5-cavity, bulk universal tray to meet the project requirements.

    The Result: The universal cavity design prevented device vibration and movement, improving the product protection with zero rejects in a bulk pack solution.

    The Impact:
    57% reduction in transatlantic freight costs
    52% reduction in packaging material costs
    133% increase in devices per pallet

    To learn more about this project, please click here.

  • Wahl Clipper Products
    Consumer Goods Packaging

    The Goal: To move their packaging material from PVC to PET – a contaminate in the PET recycling system.

    The Process: We worked with Wahl Clipper Corporation to identify potential PVC alternatives. The PI engineers evaluated performance requirements for each tray. After a series of testing, PET was selected.

    The Result: All packages were converted to PET, and are now more recyclable, as durable and meet NGO and key retailer goals.

    The Impact:
    5,000 samples were produced
    25 parts were transitioned to PET
    102,000 pounds transformed from PVC to PET annually

    Learn more here.

Ok, love this. But what is Plastic Ingenuity doing as a company?

We get it. This goes both ways. We engrain sustainability into everything we do. Read more about the investments we’ve made and actions we have taken.

High-level overview of Plastic Ingenuity’s internal initiatives and investments include:

  • Scope 2 emissions tracking
  • Zero waste target
  • Natural environment preservation
  • Onsite solar power generation and usage
  • Heat reclamation infrastructure captured and reused in our facilities
  • Closed loop cooling water infrastructure reducing our water consumption
  • Renewed our pledge to Operation Clean Sweep
  • Wisconsin DNR Green Tier organization

Additional specific details on our initiatives and infrastructure to support our circularity goals:

  • The phrase “we will be ever mindful of our natural environment” is embedded in Plastic Ingenuity’s mission statement.
  • We installed a system that captures waste heat from the thermoforming process and use it to heat our warehouse during winter months, reducing the consumption of natural gas.
  • Plastic Ingenuity installed a closed loop cooling system for our thermoforming machines to reduce water consumption by over 250,000 gallons per month.
  • Our Corporate HQ in Cross Plains, WI borders the Black Earth creek, a world class trout stream. To protect this ecosystem, we developed three rain gardens that reduce storm water run-off.
  • We reuse or sell over 99% of scrap plastic and have a stringent pellet loss program.
  • We have reduced our landfill contributions by over 80% with our robust recycling program. Recycling aerosol cans, batteries, corrugate, skids to even used oils and scrap steel.
  • Plastic Ingenuity installed solar cells that generate over 13,000 kWh of energy per year, or about 10% of our electricity needs, removing nearly 21,000 lbs. of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • We upgraded our chilled water systems, air compressors, and vacuum pumps with Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs). These have (and continue to do so) reduced our carbon footprint by 324,000 lbs.
  • We installed energy-efficient lights and occupancy sensors throughout our facilities. This reduced our energy consumption in lighting by 66%.

Memberships & Committees

PLASTICS (Plastics Industry Association), serving on the recycling committee | Recycling Partnership, partner member | PP Recycling Coalition, funding member | Association of Plastics Recyclers, proud member | Sustainable Packaging Coalition, proud member | NAPCOR (National Association for PET Container Resources), serving on the Board of Directors and Chair of the Thermoforming Committee | Foodservice Packaging Institute, proud member | Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council, proud member | Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, proud member

Creating a circular economy

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So, what's next?

As packaging professionals passionate about developing more circular packaging, there’s a lot outside of our control. Honestly, it can be frustrating at times. By focusing on the positives, solutions are available today using readily available technology and well-established best practices. Increasing the circularity of all packaging types will require an unprecedented level of collaboration. The challenges we face as a packaging industry are too steep to face alone. We must work together to make the progress that is rightfully expected of us. We’re proud of the steps we have taken, but this is just the beginning.

However, we’re up for the challenge. Are you?

When you’re ready to discuss more, we’d love to connect you with our Sustainability Team to discuss the impact a circular approach could have your product – and the environment.