Photos courtesy of iDesign

Home organization and sustainable living are goals for readers of Better Homes and Gardens, The Spruce, The Home Edit and similar magazines and websites, and iDesign is manufacturing storage containers to help consumers achieve both these goals.

In April, the Solon, Ohio-based storage, home décor and organizational products company that was founded in 1974 as InterDesign announced it would use postconsumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) in its core clear plastic offerings, with the goal of using recycled plastic in all its plastic products by 2025.

In the news release announcing the move, the company’s CEO Chris Quinn says “sustainability is woven into the DNA of our strategic priorities at every level of the company. It’s our North Star for driving a purpose-driven culture.”

James Gallagher, the company’s executive vice president of strategy and innovation, says circularity is the principle that all iDesign’s new products are founded on.

Guiding principle

“Our guiding principle is circularity,” Mike Scherzer, iDesign’s senior director of product development tells Plastics Recycling. “We build our designs around recycled plastics and/or renewable raw materials and, although our products are designed to last a lifetime, we ensure our products can be easily recycled at the end of their lives.”

Prior to introducing its rPET container line, which it markets under the iD Renew name, iDesign converted its portfolio of polypropylene (PP) products to use 60 percent to 90 percent recycled content.

“Our commitment to sustainability is what drives our use of recycled content,” Scherzer says. “This commitment is equally owned and shared at all levels of our organization. Plastic waste in our landfills and oceans is a huge problem globally, and we want to do our part by converting the waste of single-use products into high-quality iDesign products that will last a lifetime.”

The company began its conversion from virgin PET to rPET in October of last year, he says.

“We are on track to have over 60 percent of our total line of PET items converted into rPET by the end of 2022. This means that we will have diverted over 10 million pounds of plastic from landfills by the end of 2022, and iDesign will be diverting over 20 million pounds annually once we fully convert our PET product line during the beginning of 2023.”

Scherzer says iDesign has developed a proprietary process that allows the company to produce high-quality, clear rPET from single-use water bottles to use in manufacturing its clear storage containers.

“We have created a revolutionary material composition that delivers the same quality, functionality and clarity our customers have come to love and expect,” Gallagher says. “Not only will our products be made of recycled plastic, but they also can be recycled at the end of their life in order to make more products of recycled material. This is our continuous commitment to a circular economy.”

The clear containers are designed to address another issue: food waste.

The containers’ contents can be seen easily through the transparent plastic, allowing the user to keep track of contents in the refrigerator that need to be used. Some also include features designed to prolong freshness, such as the Crisp Berry Bin with a double-layered design with a removable basket insert and strainer that removes excess moisture.

Maintaining consistency

Maintaining color and consistency are the greatest challenges iDesign has encountered in its use of rPET.

“We’re using hundreds of millions of water, soda [or] juice bottles that are all different, so mixing these together to deliver a consistent, high-quality, clear rPET is the biggest hurdle,” Scherzer says. “We developed our proprietary process to overcome this variation, giving us the consistency we need to maintain the same quality, functionality and clarity that our customers and trade partners have come to expect from the iDesign brand.”

He adds that engaging with iDesign’s supply chain also has helped the company achieve success incorporating rPET into its storage containers. “We’re a requirement-driven product development company, and we had to convert and cascade these requirements all the way down to the first steps in our supply chain and then at all subsequent steps to ensure our final product will meet the final quality requirements,” Scherzer says.

IDesign’s network of rPET suppliers is “growing every day,” he says. “We are constantly working to develop and expand our network and are open to working with any PCR [postconsumer resin] company who needs help converting their PCR product into a sustainable consumer product solution.”

In addition to its PCR suppliers, Scherzer says iDesign’s brand partners have played a role in advancing the concept of sustainability more broadly by purchasing products made with eco-friendly materials to reducing food waste.

“Our partners are the champions of our sustainability message and often promote our products to connect with their followers in their own unique way.”

The company’s brand partners include the home organization sites The Spruce, which teamed up with iDesign to market its rPET containers, as well as The Home Edit.

The ‘right thing to do’

When asked what benefits iDesign sees from using recycled plastics in its products, Scherzer says, “It’s the right thing to do, and we at iDesign take pride in this. Our trade partners take pride in this as well, so we certainly strengthen these relationships with them as they continue to raise the sustainability bar for themselves.”

He continues, “It’s also not easy to use recycled materials, so this does drive differentiated value to our company and to our trade partners.”

IDesign’s focus on sustainability and recycled-content use has one additional benefit, Scherzer says. “[I]t makes us an employer of choice for those seeking a meaningful career that supports sustainability. We really appreciate the passion every employee at iDesign brings to their work and our mission.”

To ensure the circularity of its products, iDesign designs its products to be easy to recycle, he says. “Our goal is always to make our products easy to recycle and to empower our customers to know how to best recycle their iDesign products when appropriate.

“Our approach starts with the materials we use,” he continues. “We’ve specifically used PET knowing it’s the most recycled material in the world, therefore providing the highest opportunity for a second life for our products. Transitioning to rPET in our designs will take that even a step further while still allowing for our products to be recycled at their end of life.

“The simplicity of our designs also contributes towards ease of recycling—our designs often consist of a single material, taking any question out of their recyclability. Our products that are made of multiple materials are designed to be easily disassembled, allowing the different components to be recycled appropriately.”

He says the company also works to educate its consumers through consistent messaging on its website, packaging and social media channels. “For example, our website features a recycling guide to help educate consumers about plastic materials and how to recycle them.”

IDesign is working to expand its use of recycled plastics in its products to continue to deliver on its sustainability mission. Scherzer says, “We’re also evaluating all recycled material streams, both postconsumer and postindustrial, for the best options that suit our product lines.”

For the company and its customers, sustainability is a goal that is within sight.

The author is editorial director of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at dtoto@gie.net.