Milwaukee Grocery Chain Launches Plastic Bag Recycling Pilot Program

The results of the pilot program could be replicated at stores nationwide to help increase recycling rates.

A new pilot program was recently launched at select grocery stores in Milwaukee to examine ways to increase collection of plastic bags and many types of flexible wraps. 

Established by Wisconsin WRAP, which is a public-private partnership that promotes recycling of plastic film beyond bags, the project will take place at 10 grocery stores in the Roundy’s supermarket chain. The program incorporates various outreach efforts to communicate directly to shoppers at these stores, encouraging them to collect and bring back plastic film items – grocery bags, newspaper bags, dry-cleaning film, product wraps, bread bags, and more – for recycling. The plastic film is sent to recycling facilities for use in new bags, new packaging, decking, benches and other items.

Among the outreach efforts, the pilot program includes new in-store recycling bins and posters, as well as flyers that are distributed directly to shoppers. WRAP also plan to award random shoppers who get “caught in the act” of recycling plastic film with store gift cards.

The program’s plastic film collection rates will be compared to pre-program rates to determine the level of success. Assuming the program results in a significant increase in collection, WRAP will make available details of the pilot program for other stores to emulate.

The partnership is comprised of the American Chemistry Council’s Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). FFRG supports SPC’s “store drop-off” label for plastic film packaging, which helps consumers recycle their products the right way with clear and simple on-package instructions.

“We created a pilot program that is easy to replicate so, assuming we’re successful, other stores can implement a similar program with little planning,” said Shari Jackson, director of film recycling at the American Chemistry Council. “We’re exploring ways to increase participation rates, as well as the types and amounts of plastic film collected.  We aim to keep building on the 11 percent increase in film recycling that was achieved nationally in 2013.”

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