A toy company is combining sustainability, made-in-USA marketing and the John Deere brand in a new line of heavy equipment play products.
BeginAgain Toys has begun selling Eco Rigs — a front loader and a dump truck — molded from sustainable plastic. The Fort Collins, Colo., company chose a material supplied by Green Dot Plastics LLC that is processed by custom injection molder Pikes Peak Plastics Inc. into toys with working scoops and dumps.
"We can't keep up production to match sales," said BeginAgain cofounder Chris Clemmer in a phone interview.
The Eco Rigs began appearing on retailers' shelves earlier this month and Clemmer expects the line will have a banner year as shop owners begin pointing to the busy holiday season in December.
The toys' material is a blend of Braskem's polyethlylene derived from sugar cane and ground-up corn cobs that are sourced from U.S. farmers. Pikes Peak Plastics molds the several toy components in small tonnage presses at its Colorado Springs, Colo., facility.
"In the initial stage we see a lot of interest," said Pikes Peak Plastics President and owner Hal Alameddine by telephone. Alameddine bought the company four years ago and has expanded its floor space and staff to mold products in the United States at competitive prices.
Clemmer wanted Deere & Co. to be a partner in the new toy line to support a story that the toys are made from renewable farm products harvested by equipment like Deere sells. The Eco Rigs retail for about $29.99 in specialty and regional shops and on Amazon.
Clemmer, with a background in product design, spent nearly two decades developing and launching toys and other products carrying brand names like Fisher-Price. BeginAgain debuted in 2011 focusing on goods made from sustainable materials. He used sugar-cane derived PE, polypropylene from recycled yogurt cups and wheat and corn byproducts as fillers for molded toys. Sustainably harvested rubberwood is turned into wooden toys.
"We've experimented with bioplastics for about a decade," Clemmer said. A compostable teether for toddlers was one result. The Eco Rigs are bio-based PE containing about 15 percent ground-up corn cobs.
The Eco Rigs Pikes Peak Plastics molds under license are its first sustainable products. They represent a made-in-USA thrust that the company emphasizes in its marketing. The 30-employee custom molder first started production in 1994 before Alameddine bought the business in 2013.
Green Dot Bioplastics in Cottonwood Falls, Kan., was founded in 2011 by Mark Remmert after he retired from a long career at Dow Chemical Co. The firm has developed an array of sustainable materials from bio-based feedstocks and biodegradable materials. Some listings in its Terratek product line are a compostable bioplastic elastomer, starch-filled resins and wood-plastic composites.
BeginAgain has also developed a John Deere-branded lemonade set that will be molded in Illinois to hit store shelves in August.