Sustainable retailer finds new CO2 savings with help from Recrylic
At Room & Board, sustainability isn’t just a trend . . . it’s part of the company’s DNA. As a leading furniture and home décor company with 22 locations across the U.S., Room & Board has made sustainable practices a core business value since its founding in 1980.
From its beginnings in Minneapolis more than 40 years ago, Room & Board has sought to make a positive environmental impact through responsible sourcing, production, packaging and operations. Progress toward the company’s sustainability goals – such as using 100% sustainably sourced wood by 2025 – is measured and reported in an annual impact report.
Recently, Room & Board found another opportunity to work more sustainably by partnering with Acrylic Design Associates to recycle used acrylic items through its innovative Recrylic® offering. Room & Board started by sending hundreds of used acrylic displays and frames to Acrylic Design, for recycling as new Recrylic sheets – suitable for use in a new generation of displays, fixtures, signs and the like.
“Recycling items like acrylic has traditionally been a challenge,” said Mick Aeshliman, Room & Board Sustainability Manager. “We are excited that Recrylic provides an opportunity for collecting and recycling used materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill.”
Living a Closed-loop Lifecycle
Unlike many other plastics, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) – commonly known as acrylic – can be recycled indefinitely as itself. While many plastics can be recycled as something else – such as a deck tile – acrylic presents a closed-loop opportunity for creating new Recrylic sheets – made from 100% recycled (and recyclable) content.
Acrylic Design combines its own acrylic scrap and cuttings with used materials sent by Room & Board and other companies. With some minor exceptions, any type or color of pre- or post-consumer acrylic scrap can be collected, including items that have been printed, painted or dyed. Acrylic Design sends about 20 tons of acrylic scrap for recycling every three months. The scrap is ground to small pieces, liquified and returned to its original monomers – and then repolymerized as new Recrylic cast acrylic sheets, ready for use by Acrylic Design and other fabricators.
Recrylic looks, performs and costs the same as virgin acrylic – making it a perfect fit for a wide variety of retail and architectural solutions such as displays, signage, LED fixtures, wall panels, window frames and other branded features. Recrylic is also the world’s only line of certified recycled acrylic sheets – with certifications from both the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Content Certification (RCC). Based on robust audit and evaluation processes, the certifications help to confirm Recrylic’s recycled status throughout its lifecycle and chain of custody.
Making an Impact . . . Easier and Easier
Using Recrylic in place of virgin acrylic can help organizations to achieve their sustainability goals. An academic study conducted in 2022 showed that Recrylic offers a 90% lower carbon footprint compared to virgin acrylic made from fossil fuels. Keeping used acrylic out of landfills also reduces CO2 use even further.
“The recycling process is relatively pain-free,” said Aeshliman. “We collect our used items from our stores – usually in a return truck or otherwise empty boxes. There’s no charge for us to recycle used acrylic, other than our cost to get the materials to Acrylic Design. They cover the shipping costs from there.”
Aeshliman says that Room & Board has a goal of reducing operational waste from landfill by 75% by 2025. Thanks in part to programs like Recrylic, Room & Board is ahead of schedule and expected to achieve its goal in 2023. And going forward, Room & Board is exploring Recrylic for use in new fixture, display, signage and even décor projects.
“The sustainable aspects of Recrylic are exciting,” he said. “To be able to have the aesthetic and performance features of acrylic but with 90% less carbon footprint is truly amazing.”