The Airlite Blog

Core Values

The Basics of PCR Plastics in Sustainable Food Packaging

At Airlite, we’re proud to partner with so many customers who share our vision of a circular economy and believe in the importance of minimizing raw virgin materials in our packaging.

We’re a leading proponent and consumer of post-consumer recycled materials. Any polypropylene product we make can be made using PCR resin.

Not only are they one of the most effective ways to achieve your sustainability goals, but their use also results in packaging that’s just as efficient, effective, and high-quality as those made from virgin resin.

The demand for PCR products continues to grow, but not everyone fully understands the process or the benefits.

Here are some things you need to know:

 

What exactly is PCR?

PCR stands for post-consumer recycled material. In short, this is everything we’re putting in the recycling bin. This means all the cans, plastic bottles, and paper materials that local recycling programs take in.

Recycling facilities can then remove the recycled polypropylene items and sell them off to companies that can process, melt, and grind the material into small pellets. And it’s these pellets that we can then use to create brand new consumer, food-safe packaging without having to rely on virgin resin.

Due to the significant color variation in recycled materials, products made from PCR resin traditionally result in a gray color. This is why most PCR products you see today are black or gray.

 

Why is PCR important?

Now more than ever, consumers and producers continue to demand more environmental responsibility from each other. It’s important that those committed to recycling see that the effort is worth it and are able to inspire more to do the same.

Normalizing the efforts to create brand new packaging from PCR resin is logical and critical. Increasing PCR use and decreasing the demand for virgin materials will only help us advance the recycling infrastructure in this country and allow us to make an even more significant, positive environmental impact.

 

What are the benefits of switching to PCR-based packaging?
  • Reduce your environmental impact — Using recycled materials will help you create more sustainable packaging, allow you to minimize waste and emissions, and reduce your overall carbon footprint.
  • Giving consumers what they want — Consumers demand companies adopt more sustainable practices and are often willing to pay more for products that reflect their values.
  • Demonstrating your commitment — Achieving a functioning, thriving circular economy will take PCR trendsetters to show other organizations and consumers that it can work. Being at the leading edge will help raise your organization’s profile and show others the importance you put on sustainability.

 

What products can be created with PCR?

Airlite is taking steps towards becoming a zero-waste company. All scrap leftover in our manufacturing process is reground to create new products. We’ve long repurposed recycled polypropylene scrap to manufacture other non-food products in our Fox Blocks® and TrueGrid® divisions.

But in the last few years, we’ve seen the development of a process that allows the use of PCR material in FDA-approved, recyclable food packaging. So now we’re finally starting to see more food-based products on the shelves packaged with post-consumer plastic, which is a massive win for the environment and all of us who are committed to bringing the circular economy to reality.

This is just the start for us as we continue to develop new products and partnerships with clients invested in the future of sustainable food packaging.




Post-Event

Category Trends and IML Packaging at Expo West ‘22

The Airlite Team recently made the trip to Anaheim, California, for the 2022 Natural Products Expo, the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event.

It’s the biggest event of the year for the natural products industry and one that, due to Covid, we haven’t been able to attend since 2019. So, it felt great to be back and in-person unveiling our new booth set up, observing trends, and supporting all of our customers in attendance.

The “Oat-based” category continues to grow.

With around 2,700 exhibitors, there was a lot to see and various angles covered. But, our focus this year was primarily on the plant-based food category.

And one topic trending this year was oat-based products. The grain’s adaptability and sustainability have clearly caught the industry’s attention, with consumers finding it a flavorful, nutritionally sound dairy alternative.

Some of our own customers were getting attention for their oat-based products, including Wildbrine’s wildCreamery Oat Butter, Noop’s Oatmilk Pudding, and Miyoko’s Creamery’s Cultured Vegan Butter made with oat milk.

More Airlite customers making waves.

We’ve watched plant-based food trend upwards for several years due to its documented health benefits and improved sustainability. And our list of customers in this space continues to grow as well.

At Expo West 2022, the trend proved here to stay, with 19 of our customers in plant-based categories exhibiting, creating buzz, and leading the way.

Several Airlite customers were even featured, nominated, and/or winners of awards given to the industry’s most innovative and inspiring products:

  • Miyoko’s Creamery won a prestigious NEXTY Award for “Best New Product Supporting a Plant-Based Lifestyle” for their Liquid Vegan Pizza Mozzarella.
  • Field and Farmer’s Ranch Dressing + Dip was nominated for a NEXTY for “Best New Meat & Dairy Alternative.”
  • And Kite Hill and Ithaca Hummus also made some noise, with Kite Hill featured in the New Product Showcase for their new non-dairy Kite Hill Queso, and Ithaca previewing their new Grillo’s Pickles flavor and partnership with Grillo’s. Nothing better than great food in performance packaging, right?

The future is well underway.

The natural and organic industry grew 7.7% to $274 billion in 2021 and is forecasted to surpass $300 billion in sales by 2024 and $400 billion by 2030.

And according to FAIRR, two in five global food manufacturers already have a team dedicated to developing plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and more.

Like many other industries we’ve worked with, it’s one that we embrace and continue to develop meaningful relationships in. So that’s why it was great to be back and a part of the industry’s big event. Not sure we could say it any better than one of the event’s organizers Lacy Gautier:

“The turnout we’ve seen this week is a strong indication that the industry prioritizes face-to-face connection and product discovery. The energy at this show was palpable, and we are really excited to be back in Anaheim with our incredible clients, community, and vendor partners.”

Product Feature

Let’s Reduce Single-Use with the Again! Cup®

For decades, single-use cups have been the norm in quick-service restaurants (QSR), gas stations, and regional coffee houses.

The numbers are pretty staggering, but American’s use approximately 120 Billion disposable, single-use cups a year. And the unfortunate reality is that the paper coffee cups, which make up nearly half of the single-use cups used annually, don’t get recycled.

Reusability is crucial. But while there have been some encouraging developments, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically slowed down the progress of these efforts. To limit contact and avoid passing on the virus, several national coffee chains reluctantly banned the use of reusable cups in 2020.

Now in 2022, we all have a better understanding of the virus and a renewed urgency to limit dependence on the single-use cup. And at Airlite, we think the Again! Cup® can be a catalyst for collaboration and change.

 

Refill is the New Recycle

The Again! Cup® is available in both 16oz and 20oz sizes.At Airlite, we’re committed to creating a more sustainable future. The brands we work with are continually implementing new strategies to join us in that effort.

We see the Again! Cup® as an exciting opportunity for companies in the food and beverage industry to take a giant step toward their sustainability goals. Together, through the power of reusability, we can reduce single-use and create a rapid decrease in landfill materials.

Our BPA-Free, injection-molded Again! Cup® can be cleaned, refilled, and distributed for resale over and over again. And because of the ergonomic design and cool-touch ribbing on the outside of the cup, the Again! Cup® eliminates the need for a paper sleeve—reducing waste in landfills and operational costs.

Benefits:

  • Cool-touch ribbing makes it easy and safe to grip. No need for a sleeve!
  • Completely recyclable and reusable.
  • Made from up to 50% post-consumer recycled plastic, reducing the need for virgin resin.
  • Stylish, counter-worthy design leaves a strong brand impression.
  • IML (in-mold labeling) provides a high-end look that can be customized throughout the year based on seasonal promotions and designs.
  • Available in both 16oz and 20oz sizes.
  • Increases consumer involvement in a brand’s sustainability story.

 

 

Closing the Loop

We’re encouraged to see some brands begin to resume their refillable cup programs. Along with companies like Loop, who work alongside brands to help implement new circular packaging programs, we’re also seeing prominent brands roll out their own reusable programs and subscription-based refill models.

To create a successful reusable cup program in your stores, you first need a cup that can be washed and used again and again and still look great and feel great in your hand. The injection-molded, in-mold labeled Again! Cup® is just that; a breakthrough opportunity and perfect vessel to build your reusability platform around. And it’s a great way to increase your customer’s involvement in your sustainability story by giving them a branded, counter-worthy cup they want to reuse.

Polypropylene isn’t recyclable at every materials recovery facility around the country due to lack of infrastructure and demand. Help us make a change and take a step toward a true circular economy by utilizing a cup made from post-consumer recycled materials and creating a greater demand for PCR polypropylene.

We believe in the possibility of a zero-waste future and creating functional sustainability through innovation and design. So let’s work together to reduce single-use and make the circular economy a reality.

 


Acquisition

Airlite Plastics Adds Cosmetic Specialties International to its Portfolio of Performance Packaging

Omaha, Neb. (October 4th, 2021). Airlite Plastics Co. acquired Cosmetic Specialties International, LLC on October 1st, 2021, expanding its industry presence into cosmetic packaging products.

Cosmetic Specialties International (CSI), a privately held company located in Oxnard, CA, has been serving the cosmetics industry since 1978. CSI is a leading U.S. manufacturer of injection molded jars, caps, liners and closures made from both traditional plastics and recycled resins. Additionally, CSI provides end-to-end packaging services such as product design, tooling development, and in-house decorating.

“We are incredibly excited for the future with CSI,” said Brad Crosby, Airlite President & CEO. “The addition of CSI allows us to add new product lines to our performance packaging division while expanding our geographic footprint. The team in Oxnard shares our core values of over serving the customer through the development of quality, innovative products.”

CSI will continue to operate out of their current location in Oxnard with the local leadership, led by Chris Gedwed, remaining in place.

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About Airlite Plastics Co.:
Airlite Plastics is a privately held, family owned and operated manufacturer of performance packaging. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska and founded in 1946, the Airlite product portfolio has expanded to consist of in-mold labeled and printed containers and lids for the food industry, drink cups, Measurex® scoops, polystyrene & KODIAKOTTON® insulated shippers, TRUEGRID® permeable pavers, Fox Blocks® insulated concrete form (ICF) building blocks, and other custom plastic products.


Product Feature

Introducing Airlite’s Microwaveable Sleeveless Tray

Innovation is part of the fabric of Airlite. We’re vigilant about it. If there’s a way to improve the efficiency, sustainability, and quality of what we do — we do it and pass those benefits on to our customers. The new Microwavable Sleeveless Tray (MST) from Airlite is just the latest proof of that.

Looking at the existing packaging landscape of microwaveable ready-to-eat foods, it was clear where we could help simplify and streamline. More often than not, we see these plastic tray products packaged inside of a secondary, branded paperboard sleeve.

But the truth is, with our advanced IML packaging (in-mold labeled), the sleeve is unnecessary, a hassle, and a waste.

Our solution? Skip the sleeve.

Simplicity

The paper sleeve over the tray adds an unneeded extra step to the packaging process. The Microwavable Sleeveless Tray (MST) removes the secondary paperboard wrapping component entirely, resulting in significant operational savings for our customers.

In addition, the shape of the product doesn’t present any unique challenges to the filling and sealing sides of the process. Our engineers have worked to ensure its design fits existing industry-standard carrier pockets and fillers. But of course, if your team requires any consultation, Airlite’s field engineering team will come to you directly to ensure it works in your facilities.

High Impact Design

We understand the aesthetic role the paperboard sleeve has played for microwavable containers. However, the high-impact graphics produced on the MST virtually eliminate the purpose of the paperboard sleeve.

IML packaging, now one of the most popular and premium packaging options available, produces rich, vivid, scratch-resistant graphics on the container and lid. IML decoration makes an impression and stands out in an aisle full of paperboard wrapped trays.

The MST is also infinitely reusable due to its durability, re-closable lid, and cool-touch handles that allow for safe handling out of the microwave. And with high-impact branded graphics that never peel off, a repurposed container and lid become a long-lasting billboard in the end user’s kitchen—even after a dozen trips through the dishwasher.

Sustainability

It’s obvious, even at first glance, that the paperboard sleeve is a waste of raw paper materials. Airlite, like many of our customers, is committed to reducing our environmental footprint and creating sustainable food packaging. By using the MST, our customers will save millions of trees and significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Also, the MST’s re-closable lid makes it highly reusable. Consumers can heat mashed potatoes, refrigerate unused portions without tin foil or cellophane, and later reheat the product in the same container. And when the product is gone, they’ll have a dishwasher-safe, microwaveable container that remains easy to repurpose in the kitchen or around the home.

All of our containers, including the MST, are 100% recyclable. But we’re proud to announce the MST can also be made using up to 50% post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR). We’ve long recycled and reused post-consumer polypropylene scrap to manufacture other non-food products, BUT only recently have we developed a product and process that allows for PCRs to be used in FDA approved recyclable food packaging.

This is big news. Now, we only need to rely on virgin resin for half of the product, with the rest coming from polypropylene that has already gone through the recycling stream.

We hear consumer needs. We want to make the world better. We fully believe in a circular economy. And for Airlite and our customers, the MST is an important step toward creating sustainable food packaging that supports that vision.

Let’s Connect

Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about how the Microwavable Sleeveless Tray can help you save on operational costs, make an impact on the store shelf, and further help your company reduce its effect on the environment.


Core Values

Sustainable Food Packaging – A Future-First Mindset

April 2021 marks the 51st anniversary of the beginning of Earth Day. We’re proud to lend our support and voices to the Earth Day cause, but more importantly, we’re also taking action.

It all starts with recycling.

All of our signature containers and lids are made with sustainability in mind. We ensure that each molded unit we make is 100% recyclable and reusable—all 2 billion+ of them. However, regardless of those efforts, we know that we have a global problem regarding plastic waste being discarded into landfills and our natural environment.

So we’ve made significant efforts, partnerships and acquisitions designed to maximize our post-consumer recycling efforts. In fact, we’re a top consumer of post-consumer plastic ourselves. Airlite is a zero resin waste facility, which means that all scrap produced in our manufacturing process is reground and reused to create products for our other divisions like Fox Blocks® and TrueGrid®.

Innovations in reduction.

On top of creating premium containers that stand out on the shelf, we’re also focused on creating containers that keep products on the shelf longer.

We’ve been able to help our customers, and grocery chains reduce their impact by providing full-wrap in-mold labeled (IML) containers with an EVOH oxygen barrier layer. The oxygen barrier helps protect the product from spoiling, being thrown out, and restocked unnecessarily.

Another innovation in the grocery aisle is Airlite’s “Microwaveable Sleeveless Tray” (MST), a breakthrough in the microwaveable ready-to-eat food category. The MST removes the need for the secondary paperboard sleeve and therefore eliminating the waste of tons of raw paper material.

With the premium-branded IML lid of the MST, a consumer can heat mashed potatoes, refrigerate unused portions without tin foil or cellophane, and later reheat the product in the same container. And best of all, the MST can be made using up to 50% post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR). This is a big step towards accomplishing our vision of a circular economy, where all plastic is recycled, and all of our products are created without the need for virgin resin.

Reusability is key.

At Airlite, we create products that have the ability for a second life. The vast majority of our products are durable, dishwasher safe, microwavable, and reusable. So when the product is gone, they’ll have a container that remains easy to repurpose in the kitchen or around the home.

Our focus on creating a circular economy for our products led to the launch of our Again! Cup® which aims to help put a significant dent in the 120 billion disposable, single-use coffee cups American’s use every year. The waste from these cups alone adds up to over 2.2 billion pounds of waste annually. The Again! Cup® is a sustainable, BPA-Free, injection-molded drink cup that is ultra-durable, dishwasher-safe, and infinitely reusable. This cup provides the opportunity for local, regional, and national coffee shops, restaurants, and convenience stores to incentivize and reward the use of these reusable cups. And like the MST and all of our products, it is fully recyclable and can be produced using 50% FDA-approved, post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR).

Click here to learn more about our sustainability practices.

Happy Earth Day 2021!


Product Feature

Discover the Impact of the Again! Cup®

Two Again Cups

Sustainable beverage packaging is incredibly rare at quick-service restaurants (QSR), gas stations, and other regional coffee houses.

Forcing a change in these industries can be difficult, but more companies are rising to the challenge every day—trying to find ways to minimize their impact on the environment. And the Again! Cup® from Airlite provides us, our customers and their customers an amazing opportunity to work together and do just that.

The Big Problem

Every year, Americans use 120 Billion disposable, single-use coffee cups. When you combine that with the raw materials used in the lids, sleeves, and straws, these paper cups create over 2.2 billion pounds of waste a year.

Some people may assume that these cups are easily recycled. However, what makes these cups functional in the first place, is the plastic lining on the inside. It’s this lining, on top of the paper, that makes recycling these cups a challenge, and more often than not, cups like these end up in a landfill.

Our Sustainable Solution

At Airlite, we’re hyper-focused on helping minimize our impact on the environment. Our clients are the same way—continually looking for ways to make sustainable practices easier for them and their clientele.

Our Again! Cup® is a sustainable, BPA-Free, injection-molded drink cup that is ultra-durable, dishwasher-safe, and infinitely reusable.

But it’s not enough to be technically reusable; a cup like this needs to be something people like using and are happy to reuse. The Again! Cup® is a stylish cup that can be labeled using our The Look® printing method or branded with Airlite’s premium in-mold labeling to create a lasting brand impression.

Along with a premium look, the cool-touch ribbing surrounding the cup makes it easy and safe to grip without the need for single-use cardboard sleeves every time you order a coffee or tea.

On top of being reusable, the Again! Cup® is like all Airlite containers in that it is 100% recyclable. And it is also part of a growing list of Airlite products made using up to 50% FDA-approved, post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR).

This is big because only half of the product relies on virgin resin, with the rest coming from polypropylene that has already gone through the recycling stream. The Again! Cup® is a big step towards our goal of creating products made with a high-percentage or entirely from post-consumer recycled plastics.

Our Vision

Between our initial rollout of the Again! Cup® and today, the product’s relevance and potential have only grown. Our vision is to continue to expand the use of the Again! Cup® by partnering with organizations like Loop and providing our customers a cup that they could use to build their own reusability program around—a cup that can be cleaned, reused, and even distributed for resale over and over again.

We see an opportunity for local, regional, and national coffee shops, restaurants, and convenience stores to incentivize and reward the use of these safe-touch, premium-branded, and reusable cups.

Airlite is excited to work with our clients in these industries to customize an Again! Cup® that fits their business goals and helps reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Contact us to learn more.