Four Sam’s Club locations in El Paso, Texas, are running a recycling trial program
that offers cash rewards to customers who recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thermoformed containers. The initiative was developed by the Houston-based Texans for Clean Water
and Austin-based Texan by Nature, and it is made feasible with the support of regional El Paso community organizations and project partners. The program will collect 110,000 pounds of No. 1 PET plastics between July 6, 2022, and January 2023, according to the Texan by Nature website.
According to Karina Araujo, marketing manager at Texan by Nature, PET thermoformed containers were chosen due to their lower recycling rate than PET bottles.
At material recovery plants without optical sorting equipment, PET thermoforms frequently flow into a mixed plastics bale, where they may eventually end up in landfills, according to Araujo. Plastic recycling technologies such as Melt Filters that recycle PET containers and many other plastics help sort the plastics and ease the process of recyling. Plastic clamshells for fruit, trays, tubs, transparent egg cartons, lids, and cups are examples of objects made of PET thermoformed plastic.
The trial program is comparable to beverage container deposit schemes that offer rewards for recycling plastics. According to Araujo, there is 50% less litter on roads and 30% less litter in waterways in the ten states that have deposit laws that offer 5 to 10 cents for containers returned for recycling.
Araujo argues that combining PET data with this knowledge “offers a possibility to reduce landfill waste, reduce litter on roads and in waterways, and possibly show a circular model.”
In the El Paso Sam’s Club parking lots, containers for PET thermoform deposits, created by Texan by Nature, are situated. The MeCycle App allows users to examine their drop-off histories and claim incentive rewards for materials they have deposited. For each transparent, thermoformed No. 1 PET plastic package recycled, customers will receive 10 cents back. They can transfer the remaining sum to a Venmo account if they have added 50 or more goods, or $5 in earnings, to their account. Additionally, users have the choice to contribute the funds they receive to nearby charities:
-El Paso Zoological Society
-Green Hope Initiative;
-The Community Foundation for Paso del Norte
-The Frontera Land Coalition;
-Institute Tom Lea
During the course of the six-month project, Green Impact Plastics, located in Vernon, California, will cooperate with L&P Scientific Consulting, based in El Paso, to empty the containers. El Paso will bale the thermoforms before shipping them to Juarez, Mexico, where they will be processed into flakes. These flakes will be delivered to Dallas-based packaging maker D6 Inc. for use in creating new PET thermoformed goods. Over the past nine years, D6 has recycled more than 1.1 billion pounds of domestic PET in total. According to Araujo, D6 will be able to transform the recycled debris back into PET thermoforms in less than two weeks.
Texans for Clean Water is providing funding for the project, which includes the incentive incentives for recycling participants. D6 Inc. has also pledged more money for incentives.
Araujo claims that through using marketing and instructional materials in both English and Spanish, the initiative has involved the El Paso community. The marketing materials, which were developed by Texan by Nature with participation from neighborhood groups, are being distributed to media outlets in El Paso as well as to community organizations, government agencies, and multifamily housing.
The Frontera Land Alliance, El Paso Community Foundation, Green Hope Project, Better Business Bureau Paso del Norte, and several other organizations are collaborating with Texan by Nature in marketing and outreach initiatives.
After the pilot, Texan by Nature will compile a thorough report with input from all partners that covers all the data that was gathered, best practices, lessons learned, and other information.
This project is meant to serve as a template that other corporate retailers could use to improve the circularity of their supply chains, according to Araujo.