A pilot project in Texas aimed at recycling PET containers has been extended through April.
The project initially focused on recycling thermoformed PET, but picked up momentum when it was expanded to include PET bottles as well.
Warehouse chain store Sam's Club had sponsored the six-month pilot program at its retail stores in El Paso, Texas. Consumers who returned thermoformed PET to the stores received a 10-cent-per-container incentive.
The pilot ended on March 1, but now will continue another month and the participants are exploring ways to expand it to other local communities.
"It was a great example of how funds can be multiplied, and we hope the state will provide funds to kick start infrastructure development," said Maia Corbitt, president of Texans for Clean Water, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to reduce the amount of trash and litter in waterways.
"We also hope that we've shown that industry partners can come together with retail providers and it's not so scary," Corbitt said.
Texans by Nature, an Austin, Texas-based organization that brings together conservation and businesses officials, also participated in the pilot program.
Taylor Keys, program director at Texans by Nature, said the project was successful because it diverted packaging from landfills and built consumer awareness of recycling.
"This built trust in recycling and let people know where the material is going," Keys said.
The pilot project was aimed in part at reducing litter, similar to other states' experience with bottle deposits.
Participants say the community recycling project got off to a slow start but picked up when the partners stepped up marketing.
"Once we got everything in motion ... you can kind of see a hockey stick spike up in container returns," said Shane Werling, vice president of sales at D6 Inc. a Sulphur Springs, Texas-based thermoformer that was a partner in the pilot.