Rentacrate LLC of Waltham, Mass., makes extensive use of recycled polymers, focuses on environmental awareness and continues to expand across the nation.
The firm, which rents out plastic crates and moving equipment, uses about 5 percent virgin resin in its new crates.
``Over our 17-year history, only about 5 percent of our crates have been damaged beyond repair, and all of these have been recycled,'' said Michael Brown, president and chief operating officer. ``The true average life expectancy is over 17 [years], as we still haven't reached the end to the useful life of most of the first crates we build in 1991.''
As Rentacrate product manager, Eric Fredrickson manages design functions and manufacturing logistics. Also, Fredrickson is president of Thor Consulting Inc. in Leominster, Mass.
``Our core reusable plastic crates represent two-thirds of our asset base,'' Fredrickson said in a telephone interview.
Currently, the firm contracts with three injection molders for multiple products and hires extrusion and fabrication vendors for production of plastic corrugated containers.
Rentacrate, which has more than 100 products, owns the designs, patents and tooling for its core plastic crate and dolly products.
``We see an increasing need to reduce the carbon footprint of our products and services,'' Brown said. ``To address this need, our next generation of products will be much lighter and much more space-efficient,'' further reducing freight fuel consumption and increasing warehouse space.
Brown said the new products will broaden Rentacrate's potential market reach and possibly replace more types and sizes of single-use corrugated cardboard containers. In early 2007, Rentacrate began expanding into the household moving market with plastic corrugated containers.
Rentacrate evaluates environmental and economic benefits to decide where geographically to recycle materials. The recycling location ``depends on how many [containers] we accumulate, when and where,'' Fredrickson said. ``Sometimes, we are close enough to a vendor to recycle back into our own product.''
Rentacrate's practice of container reuse makes ``a dramatic impact on sustainability and the environment vs. recycling'' and reduces the carbon footprint, Fredrickson said. ``A lot of resources are consumed to make a single corrugated box, and the amount of single-use corrugated cardboard is staggering.''
While cardboard can be recycled, ``if it is not made in the first place, the impact is dramatic,'' he said.
Among newer products, the firm's quilted fabric bag for a flat-screen monitor has sewn-in corrugated plastic for structure.
In May, Rentacrate intends to introduce a new style of folding crates.
``You can get more advantage from foldable crates'' than from nestable ones, Fredrickson said.
``We try to optimize how to apply reusable plastic containers for moving office and household things,'' he said. Getting another box on a stack or an extra row on a trailer ``makes a huge difference.''
Recently, Rentacrate opened locations in Charlotte, N.C., and Pittsburgh, bringing total domestic sites to 15. The firm employs 190, including about 40 in Waltham, and had 2007 sales of $19 million.
Among a group of investors, Howard and Michael Brown are majority stockholders.