How a partnership created a ring carrier recycling program

Plastics reclaimer Avangard Innovative will sell millions of pounds of PCR each year to six-pack carrier manufacturer Hi-Cone Worldwide, as the companies expand their existing business relationship.

The two companies recently announced they launched a ring carrier recycling program, though which consumers will be able to return used LDPE six-pack ring carriers to participating stores or mail them straight to Avangard Innovative. Avangard will recycle the plastic and sell PCR to Hi-Cone for use in 50%-recycled-content carriers.


Read the full article on Plastics Recycling Update!

Companies Kick Off Partnership Week to Tackle Plastic Waste

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.


Read the full article on Waste 360!

Avangard, Hi-Cone partner in ring carrier recycling program

Avangard Innovative, a plastics recycler based in Houston, has partnered with Hi-Cone Worldwide, supplier of ring carrier multipackaging systems based in Itasca, Illinois, to launch RingRecycleMe, a program for recycling Hi-Cone’s plastic ring carriers for beverages, which are made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE).


Read the full article on Recycling Today!

Hi-Cone Responds to Beverage Companies Switching from Plastic to Paperboard Can-Rings

After writing about Coca-Cola European Partners making the switch from plastic can-rings to paperboard, I discovered that several European-based beverage companies have done the same, including beer makers Carlsberg (announced in 2018) and Heineken (announced in November 2019). The goal is to rid the world of plastic can-rings, which are made by global supplier Hi-Cone (Itasca, IL).


Read the full article on Plastics Today!

Hi-Cone Worldwide Partners with Avangard Innovative to Stem Plastic Waste

New RingRecycleMe Program Creates Renewable Supply for Ring Carriers Designed to Cut Plastic Production in the midst of the global pandemic.

Itasca, Illinois – Today a new sustainability milestone has been reached in the multi-packaging industry with Hi-Cone Worldwide, the leading supplier of multi-packaging solutions for global beer, soft drink, and general product industries, and the launch of its RingRecycleMe program in partnership with Avangard Innovative, the worldwide leader in #4 LDPE plastic recycling. The two companies join forces 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.

Currently, in the U.S. and Canada, ring carriers can be recycled where #4 LDPE mixed plastics, including ring carriers, are collected. However, we recognize more needs to be done to support collection services and recycling infrastructure. Where ring carriers are not collected today, Hi-Cone has created a free recycling program to ensure that consumers can recycle their ring carriers and give them a second life. Consumers can now send back their ring carriers through or by dropping them off at a participating retail location later this year.

“Since joining the Hi-Cone Worldwide team last year, one of my immediate goals was to provide consumers with the information and tools needed for them to recycle their ring carriers. I am excited to see this vision turning into reality, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the launch of our RingRecycleMe initiative,” said Shawn Welch, Vice President of Hi-Cone Worldwide. “Our partnership with Avangard Innovative is important to Hi-Cone because we’re working together to collect and use ring carriers to make new ones over and over again, furthering our commitment to reducing the use of virgin plastic and transitioning all ring carriers into +50% post-consumer recycled product,” Welch mentioned.

Hi-Cone’s partnership with Avangard Innovative 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 recycling. According to Hi-Cone’s State of Plastic Recycling Annual Report 2020, only one in four Americans recycle all of their plastic waste. The report also highlights the desire to do more to ensure a more sustainable future. 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.

“We are excited to be a part of the RingRecycleMe initiative in partnership with Hi-Cone, as we both share a commitment to keeping plastic and other recyclables out of landfills and the environment,” said Rick Perez, CEO of Avangard Innovative. “Our participation leverages proprietary technology to measure, manage, and monetize retailers’ sustainability programs, maximizing the volume of ring carriers and other LDPE plastics reclaimed, recycled, and transformed into post-consumer resin. By using the PCR pellets to manufacture new ring carriers, Hi-Cone and Avangard Innovative will effectively create a circular economy solution,” Perez added.

The Houston-based recycling specialists for #4 LDPE or low-density polyethylene used in bags, film, and lighter plastics, Avangard Innovative will supply post-consumer recycled resin (PCR) pellets from its NaturaPCR recycling facilities to Hi-Cone for the production on its redesigned RingCycles™ packaging, which reduces the use of virgin plastic by half. Ring carriers originated as an innovative alternative to paperboard to prevent deforestation back in the 1960s. The company is currently working on a sustainable solution that is 100% recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable by 2025.

In addition to partnering with Avangard Innovative and investing in next-generation solutions, Hi-Cone partners with leading organizations around the world including the Ocean Conservancy and TerraCycle® and is part of the Ellen McArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Global Commitment to advance the circular economy and keep plastics in use as a valuable resource.

About Hi-Cone Worldwide

Hi-Cone is a leading supplier of ring carrier multi-packaging systems for the global Beer & Non-Alcoholic Ready to Drink (NARTD) beverage markets, providing sustainable packaging solutions to major Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies. Hi-Cone has set ambitious goals to become 100% recyclable, biodegradable or compostable by 2025. We realize we cannot do this alone and need to work collaboratively with consumers, governments, and industry to meet consumer’s desire to reduce their plastic use and meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our aim is to educate consumers on how to reduce plastic consumption and how to recycle all aspects of the circular economy; an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. We partner with consumers, retailers, and industry experts to make tangible and impactful changes to advance the circular economy through our ongoing innovations in packaging design and material development. For more information on Hi-Cone, please visit or follow news on LinkedIn. To learn more about Hi-Cone’s new ring carrier recycling program, please visit

About Avangard Innovative

Avangard Innovative is the worldwide leader in technology-driven circular economy solutions headquartered in Houston, Texas. With 30 years of experience operating in 11 countries, Avangard Innovative is the largest recycler in the Americas, offering full-service waste management and recycling optimization solutions at all levels of the process. Our proprietary technology (Sustayn Analytics™), program management & optimization (NaturaZero2.0™), and post-consumer resin manufacturing facilities (NaturaPCR™) are designed to help our clients measure, manage and monetize their sustainability programs. Avangard Innovative’s mission is to preserve and protect the environment by achieving zero waste to landfill. For more information, please visit or follow news on Facebook @AvangardInnovative or LinkedIn @Avangard-Innovative.

The Total Cost of Consumption

Consumption of any kind comes at a price. In manufacturing, processes draw on resources to produce items that, once they have served their purpose, become surplus to requirements.

What happens to them next is often the subject of intense scrutiny; after all no-one is immune to social pressure to reuse and recycle. Yet, fewer among us probably consider the total cost of consumption – the end-to-end environmental impact of generating, transporting and disposing of goods.

Yet, to ignore this is to take an incomplete view of sustainability. We are all striving for a circular economy, in which a throwaway culture is superseded by an approach that keeps products and materials in use. A linear economy follows a ‘take-make-use-dispose’ model, whereas in a circular economy, materials are extracted from waste to re-enter production processes. Reuse and recycling initiatives are central to this and great strides have been made in raising awareness of this need.


Environmental Impact: Taking a Wider View

Plastic in particular has received considerable attention in recent years, so much so that ‘single-use’ was 2018’s word of the year. We all need to recycle plastic in our day-to-day lives and manufacturers should consider alternatives to single-use, but they must also take a wider view. They must consider the total impact of their materials, products and production processes.

The UK government’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in its report on plastic food and drink packaging, wrote: “In the backlash against plastic, other materials are being increasingly used as substitutes in food and drink packaging. We are concerned that such actions are being taken without proper consideration of wider environmental consequences, such as higher carbon emissions.”

The full environmental cost of production and consumption includes the choice of materials themselves but also the level of carbon emissions generated, and energy consumed.

Understanding total cost is unlikely to be a simple task; often there are complex interrelationships at work. Not surprisingly, consumers are confused. Our recent survey of adults across four regions (the USA, UK, Mexico and Spain) reveals that 69% believe non-plastic packaging (such as cardboard, glass, cans, etc.) is better for the environment than plastic, yet 30% are unsure if using a small amount of plastic can be better than a larger amount of a different packaging material such as cardboard.


The Complete Product Life Cycle

To arrive at the most sustainable solution for a product, such as a type of food or drink packaging, manufacturers and developers must look at the complete product life cycle. That means taking account of carbon emissions and the amount of energy used in manufacturing as well as the recyclability of the final product. In so doing, industry commits to optimizing the suitability of materials and products to the circular economy, as well as minimizing waste.

Through education, consumers will be equipped to make fully informed decisions, minimize the impact of their consumption and maintain pressure on industry to deliver solutions that address all sustainability issues.

The importance of recycling can’t be overstated so work must continue on raising awareness of the need to recycle, and on improving infrastructure and the recyclability of products and components. Yet, industry must also strive to bring down the total cost of consumption and support consumers in making positive choices for a circular economy. That means taking steps to understand the full environmental cost of production and consumption and working to minimize carbon emissions and energy consumption, while maximizing the sustainability of materials.


Find out about Hi-Cone’s work on sustainability to optimize the life cycle of ring carriers from production through consumption to recycling, and visit, an international recycling program, to discover how to give plastic ring carriers a new life.


About the Author

Jennifer Perr is the Global Sustainability Director at Hi-Cone. In this role, she collaborates with the entire value chain to both build and educate key stakeholders about the circular economy. She also leads Hi-Cone’s Vision 2025 team, focused on developing new multi-packaging solutions that continue Hi-Cone’s long history of packaging with positive end-of-life outcomes and that uphold Hi-Cone’s commitment to minimal environmental impact.

Creating Conditions for a Circular Economy

In a linear economy, resources are drawn upon to create products which are used and generate waste. Essentially, it is a throwaway culture – one where consumption goes hand-in-hand with disposal. A circular economy takes a different approach. It, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is: “based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.”

Reuse and recycling are at the heart of keeping products and materials in use. Products that can be reused may be given a ‘second life’ and become useful all over again. For items that are not reusable the aim should be to recycle component materials to re-enter production processes. This helps them move from a Linear Economy to Circular Economy.

Naturally, a range of stakeholders must play their part:
Manufacturers must choose materials carefully, with the aims of the circular economy in mind
Scientists and innovators need resources and support to design materials that will recycle
Waste management companies must invest in infrastructure and processes to enable recycling – and be encouraged and supported in doing so
Governments and local authorities must provide simple and convenient mechanisms for used materials to enter recycling processes
Consumers need to be motivated to engage with recycling initiatives and have access to clear, easy to understand information on what and how to recycle.

Yet, according to recent survey findings, only 34% of adults across four regions – the USA, UK, Mexico and Spain – believe that only half of what they put in recycling bins is recycled, while 31% believe a quarter is recycled and only 3% that everything is recycled.

Consumer confidence

These findings indicate there is work still to be done to build consumer confidence in recycling initiatives. What’s more, it would appear that clarity is needed over the specifics around recycling of plastics: over half of adults (56%) responding to the survey said they find recycling different plastics difficult to understand. In this, consumers in the USA were least confused with 48% finding this difficult, followed by Spain (55%), Mexico (58%) and the highest proportion coming from the UK at 60%.

In the UK, an on-pack recycling label gives an indication when 75% or more of local authorities will collect that type of packaging for recycling and when, conversely, fewer than 50% will. For more detailed guidance consumers have to refer to their own local authority’s information and in 2018, the BBC reported there were over 39 different sets of rules.

Meanwhile, in the US, some recycling programs had to reduce the items they would accept for recycle in response to challenging market conditions. According to The Recycling Partnership, its 2019 State of Curbside survey found that 29% of programs did this, with the most commonly removed items including certain plastics (primarily #3-7 – a range of plastic types used in items including some food containers).

Capitalizing on good intentions

Ultimately, this means not all plastic waste enters recycling processes each year – less than 30% in Europe, the European Commission reported in 2018. Similarly, in the US, recovery rates for packaging and food-service plastic are put at only around 28% (through mechanical recycling and waste-to-energy).

The overwhelming message is that people want to recycle but quite often they simply don’t have the resources to do so. Education is at the heart of our global plastic recycling challenge. At Hi-Cone we’re committed to driving change. Our goal is to get everyone informed and working together towards a circular economy.



To find out how to recycle Hi-Cone’s plastic ring carriers, visit, an international recycling program. The RingRecycleMe™ program is a circular economy solution. It gives plastic ring carriers a new life by using materials over and over again. By encouraging recycling over waste, we keep plastic out of landfills, and transform it into a valuable resource.


About the Author

Jennifer Perr is the Global Sustainability Director at Hi-Cone. In this role, she collaborates with the entire value chain to both build and educate key stakeholders about the circular economy. She also leads Hi-Cone’s Vision 2025 team, focused on developing new multi-packaging solutions that continue Hi-Cone’s long history of packaging with positive end-of-life outcomes and that uphold Hi-Cone’s commitment to minimal environmental impact.

Recycling – Building on the Foundations

Recycling for World Environment Day By Jennifer Perr, Hi-Cone Director of Sustainability

For most people, recycling is now a regular activity – something they do when they dispose of used packaging or get rid of something they no longer need. Education on the importance of recycling has created a momentum which can now be capitalized upon with further guidance on what can be recycled, and how. By working together, manufacturers, policy makers, enterprise and individuals can promote an even more sustainable future, and a circular economy in which the entire lifecycle of products is considered.

According to recent findings, nine out of ten (91%) of adults surveyed believe recycling plastic is beneficial to the environment, while 75% regularly recycle at home. This is incredibly encouraging – a strong foundation to build on – and a clear demonstration that society is moving away from a single-use outlook in which products are created, used and disposed of, in favor of sustainability.

An appetite for recycling

This appetite for recycling creates the right conditions for industry to work with communities and consumers to meet the goal of minimizing the impact of plastics on our environment, while maximizing plastic recycling.

While there is work still to be done, over a third (34%) of participants in our survey thought that they recycle all the plastic waste they possibly could. That, of course, still leaves considerable room for improvement but a clue as to why this figure isn’t higher is found from 80% of those who don’t recycle all plastic, who said they would do so more frequently if they had more facilities and/or guidance.

Clear and simple guidance is essential for consumers to be able to have confidence in recycling processes and to recycle to the extent they want to. Through education, consumers can more fully understand which plastics can be recycled and where, something which will not only help increase recycling rates but also ensure the right type of waste enters recycling processes to reduce inefficiency and maximize output. Education around the suitability of different materials for recycling will also equip consumers to make informed decisions on the products they buy, consume and dispose of.

Standing at a recycling bin

Sustainable product lifecycles

Manufacturers in turn must continue to ensure they prioritize sustainability and environmental measures. They can seek to do this in a number of ways, including through an increase in the percentage of recycled materials in their products and by introducing programs for materials excluded from community recycling initiatives.

Manufacturers should also commit to regularly assessing the lifecycle of their materials – from ‘cradle-to-grave’. There is an environmental consideration for all materials, not just in how they are disposed of but also in how they are manufactured, with carbon emissions and energy consumption all contributing to total impact. Lifecycle assessments should therefore inform decisions around not only the sustainability of materials used in the manufacturing process, but also the use of resources (water, fuels etc.) and production of emissions.

Continuing efforts by governments and local authorities can improve recycling infrastructure to support community recycling. This is aided by initiatives from waste management companies like TerraCycle® to collect waste not currently recycled and turn it into a valuable resource.

As part of a collective effort to end plastic waste and promote sustainability in manufacturing, production and consumption, recycling initiatives have a good foundation to build on. To accelerate towards the next stage of progress, education and infrastructure must support good intentions around recycling and in this, consumers, policy makers and manufacturers all have a role to play.

To find out how to recycle Hi-Cone’s plastic ring carriers, visit, an international recycling program.


About the Author

Jennifer Perr is the Global Sustainability Director at Hi-Cone. In this role, she collaborates with the entire value chain to both build and educate key stakeholders about the circular economy. She also leads Hi-Cone’s Vision 2025 team, focused on developing new multi-packaging solutions that continue Hi-Cone’s long history of packaging with positive end-of-life outcomes and that uphold Hi-Cone’s commitment to minimal environmental impact.




Recycling photos proudly provided by Hi-Cone employees
World Environment Day photo Credit

Hi-Cone Wins the ‘Most Responsible Packaging Solutions’ award from

Hi-Cone is honored to have won the ‘Most Responsible Packaging Solutions – United States 2020’ award from whose award program aims to identify individuals and organizations that truly add value. As we continue to push forward on our sustainability journey and work to provide valuable research and sustainable packaging solutions to our customers and consumers, we are humbled and grateful to receive such recognition.

We shared with The Capital Finance International Judging Panel, who have a combined 170 years of experience, the changes we have made over the past year to our brand, our product, and also to the way we operate. These changes were made to reduce our environmental footprint as a company as well as make a meaningful contribution to the global sustainability movement. The judging panel recognized what drives our motivation in sustainability, stating: “Hi-Cone reminds us that plastic has contributed massively to our modern lives and is not waste, but a valuable resource that needs to be reused or recycled at the end of its first life.” With this motivation of helping create a place for plastic in the new circular economy, we have succeeded in bringing our +50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content ring carrier, RingCycles™, to market and have published our first annual report on The State of Plastic Recycling (


In addition to these projects, we have also committed ourselves to supporting more community-based and global initiatives by partnering with environmental leaders such as TerraCycle® and Avangard Innovative in our different regions of operation. Together with them, we have helped provide better ways for consumers to recycle their ring carriers as well as for more recycled material to be used in the production of new ring carriers. The judging panel further applauded the 30th anniversary of our Ring Leader Collection Program which has resulted in the recycling of well over 2.7 million pounds of ring carriers, in addition to those recycled through the latest partnerships.


These milestones are only some of many on our sustainability journey. The judging panel recognized our ambitious mission ahead: “Hi-Cone is determined to become 100% recyclable, biodegradable or compostable by 2025, and will work with consumers, government, and industry to reduce the use of plastic.” Moving into the rest of 2020 and beyond, we will be continuing efforts to offer consumers helpful insights into better recycling practices as well as continuing to provide valuable data to our partners and customers on plastic recycling and the environmental impact of different packaging materials. Our new RingCycles™ product, launched in the Fall of 2019, will also continue to roll out across all markets and be completed by early 2021. Using this award as fuel, we will be finding more ways to participate in the global shift towards sustainability and develop products that support the future circular economy.


Hi-Cone Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Ring Leader Collection Program

On March 29, 1990, Hi-Cone created and launched the Ring Leader Recycling Program, a large scale environmental education and ring carrier recycling campaign to reduce litter.

The program was launched as an educational experience, dispelling myths about six-pack rings and emphasizing the importance of the 3-R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Additionally, the program provided a way for ring carriers to be recycled in places where #4 LDPE plastics were not collected in local programs or curbside.

In the 30 years since its launch, more than 16,000 schools, businesses and groups from around the world have participated in the Ring Leader Program, recycling over 2.7 million pounds of ring carriers.


Partnering With Industry

In the US, the Ring Leader Recycling Program has engaged notable partners such as Disney and Southwest Airlines. In the fall of 2017, the Ring Leader program was highlighted in Southwest, The Magazine, the airline’s inflight magazine. Southwest’s provisioning stations have collected and sent back rings for more than 10 years. However, the majority of takeback has been at a grass-roots level with school programs and recycling advocates that have taken it upon themselves to set up local collection areas. To help these collection efforts, the Ring Leader Program provided collection ‘trees’ made from recycled content themselves. These can be seen in breakrooms, cafeterias and craft beer tap rooms in the United States.

Internationally, the Ring Leader project was carried out in Spain on a pilot basis in 1992. Ten primary schools in the Barcelona area participated in the project during that school period year. Presently, more than 120 schools Spain are participating. Other advocates from around the world have set up local collection sites to get rings back to Hi-Cone facilities and our recycling partners. Returned ring carriers are made into new packaging, helping to make them into something useful and keep them out of landfills.

Expanding With The RingRecycleMeTM Program

Even before the Ring Leader Recycling Program reached this 30-year milestone, Hi-Cone had been looking for a way to further expand ring collection and recycling efforts. In conjunction with their new RingCycles™ PCR portfolio, carrier products made with 50% post-consumer recycled plastic, Hi-Cone began to roll out its wider recycling program.

The RingRecycleMe™ program will be targeted at end consumers and individuals, expanding the scope of the previous program.  The RingRecycleMe™ program is more focused on promoting a circular economy as ring carriers will be made back into post-consumer recycled material ring carriers and other products.

Hi-Cone has partnered with different groups around the world to build on their goal of eliminating waste and promoting recycling.

In the UK for example, ( Hi-Cone partnered with TerraCycle at the end of 2019 and has already seen almost 500 collection sites, including both individuals and organizations, sign up and start collecting.


In Spain, infrastructure is in place to collect the ring carriers in the municipally provided yellow bins, so Hi-Cone’s efforts there have been around messaging this to consumers through on-pack labels.

Most recently, Hi-Cone has set up for use in Canada and will soon be rolling out in the United States. Similar programs are in the works for Mexico. Hi-Cone asks that interested parties in these regions continue to collect rings and be ready for the upcoming announcements on where to send them for recycling and reuse.

As the RingRecycleMe™ programs launch globally, Hi-Cone will continue to support the current Ring Leader participants. Hi-Cone’s goals continue to be providing education on minimal packaging, reuse of plastic products in a circular economy, and promotion of more expansive recycling programs to include all plastic types.