Minnesota Company Offers Companies Recycled Acrylic Option
Many may not know acrylic is the foundation of nearly every retail display. It’s a material used in illuminated signage. It’s the translucent barrier businesses installed during the pandemic over the counters of fast-food chains and check-out lines to prevent the spread of Covid.
Acrylic is a popular alternative to glass and other materials because of its durability, versatility, and affordable cost. But it also comes at a high environmental cost with the production of one ton of acrylic requiring two tons of oil.
This is why Minnesota companies are leading the charge to reduce this waste.
For the first time, a certified and high-quality recycled version of acrylic is readily available in North America, and it’s coming out of Plymouth-based company Acrylic Design Associates. The company’s new product, Recrylic, launched in December of 2021 and has already been adopted by Minnesota companies Life Time and Lunds & Byerlys. Best Buy, Target, Kohl’s, and other businesses are also in the early stages of deploying Recrylic in place of non-recycled acrylic, said Recrylic CEO Bill McNeely Jr.
“Really it’s about carbon savings and reducing landfill for a product that could sustain for hundreds of years, thousands of years in the landfill vs. it being renewed and recycled,” he said. “That’s what we’re touting here and that’s what’s special about it. It’s the first of its kind.”
Acrylic Design Associates – a company that specializes in designing and manufacturing custom fixtures, displays and other branding elements – has been around since 1976, the founding year of acrylic use, said McNeely, the son of the company’s founder. Around four years ago, clientele started asking for a more sustainable solution for their acrylic needs as a way to meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments that often drive investments. Clients wanted the recycled product to be certified and high-quality while remaining affordable – a high demand.
At first, it was something manufacturers were unable to provide.
That changed with the pandemic, McNeely said. As hits to the supply chain cut off the flow of raw materials needed to make traditional acrylic, the creation of the recycled product became necessary. Since Recrylic’s launch in December, more than 20 tons of scrap acrylic is recycled every month.
Unlike former iterations of the recycled material, Recrylic looks, performs, and costs the same as its traditional counterpart, McNeely said. The product has achieved certification under the Global Recycled Standard and Recycled Content Certification standards.
The low price point is possible because the recycled material can be made from recycled waste within Acrylic Design Associates and in waste returned by the company’s clients. However, McNeely said the company is always looking for more businesses to recycle their acrylic products, another way for companies to meet sustainability goals.
Life Time selected Recrylic for large-scale semi-privacy screen panels for its destinations, nationwide. The panels both help to provide diffused separation in workout spaces while also providing a branded component.
The product’s aesthetics was important, Life Time’s senior vice president of fitness and weight loss Amber McMillan said in a news release.
“We wanted to create a space for our signature group training classes that provided a boutique experience and not only could Recrylic support us in that but could do so with a product that meets our sustainable requirements,” McMillan said. “When it comes to materials we use in our locations, we are committed to sourcing options that have a positive impact on the environment.”
Acrylic Design Associates calculated in a test project that using Recrylic instead of non-recycled acrylic helped to save 448 barrels of oil from being used, the environmental equivalent of keeping 46 cars off the road for a full year.