New Tools to Help Grocers Recycle More Plastic Containers

The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) announced the availability of new online resources created to help grocery chains recycle more of the plastic containers they use and empty onsite.  The program is aimed at recycling the more than 350 million pounds of plastic containers that are discarded annually by grocery stores across the United States.

“Plastic containers represent a valuable resource for recyclers and a potential revenue stream for the grocers who collect and recycle them,” said Steve Alexander, president and CEO of APR.

Used plastic containers are primarily generated in a store’s bakery, deli, seafood and pharmacy departments.  Because many stores already have programs that recycle cardboard and plastic film, expanding those programs to also include plastic containers is a natural fit.

“Many grocery chains have excellent recycling programs already in place. Our new program makes it easy for grocers to generate additional value and strengthen their sustainability efforts by recycling more of the plastics they use every day,” Alexander said.

The “Recycle Grocery Rigid Plastics” program has been piloted at Hannaford Supermarkets, a subsidiary of Delhaize America, and the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, a subsidiary of Ahold USA, both of which have been very pleased with the outcome. As a result, they are exploring implementation of full-scale programs to collect plastic containers at all of their locations.

“Recycling plastic containers clearly plays a role in our zero waste strategy,” said Christine Gallagher, manager of corporate responsibility for Ahold USA. “Throwing away recyclables is like throwing away money. Waste diversion programs like this can generate cost savings by reducing trash volume. Our stores end up paying less to have their trash removed because there is less to throw away.”

“Hannaford has a long tradition of stewardship. Recycling rigid plastic containers is an important part of Hannaford’s efforts to move toward zero waste and to reduce our carbon footprint,” said George Parmenter, manager of sustainability for Hannaford Supermarkets.  “This work hits that sustainability sweet spot, where what’s good for business meets what’s good for the planet.”

APR’s new tools – which include a how-to guide, technical service assistance, an educational video series, a list of companies that purchase recovered plastics, worksheets to evaluate potential cost savings and revenue, and customizable training materials – are accessible online at www.recyclegroceryplastics.org and available at no cost (see p. 25 of the guide for a quick list of key resources).

Free technical assistance may be provided to qualifying companies.  A form to request technical assistance may be downloaded here at www.recyclegroceryplastics.org.

This “Recycle Grocery Rigid Plastics” program was funded in part with a grant provided by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council.

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