This story has a new update! The pilot has been extended. Read more here.
Walmart Inc.- owned Sam's Club has kicked off a pilot project to recycle thermoformed PET containers in El Paso, Texas.
Sam's Club is offering consumers a 10-cent-per-container incentive to return thermoformed PET for recycling.
The retail chain is working with Texan by Nature (TxN) and Texans for Clean Water on a six-month pilot that has a goal of creating an incentive system to collect recyclable materials.
"That is important to both of our groups, certainly Texans for Clean Water, because our organization supports cleanup events and we've been doing research data collection on what are the constituents of litter and what are proven solutions to mitigate waterborne litter," said Maia Corbitt, president of TFCW.
TFCW is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to reduce the amount of trash and litter in waterways. TxN is an Austin-based organization that brings together conservation and businesses officials.
Both groups play different roles in the project. TFCW is supplying the funding for consumer incentives, plus any other funding needed for the project. TxN has worked to get partners and is managing the project.
"We are kicking off this pilot project in the hopes that El Paso becomes the model for other retailers across Texas to follow and prove that incentives to encourage people to recycle and have an impact on litter and roadways and waterways," said Karina Araujo, marketing manager at TxN.
To track the amount of thermoforms being recycled, the organizations have been working with the MeCycle app. Users can register on the app and use it to track how many thermoforms are being dropped off.
Consumers receive the incentives through the app, which can either be claimed by Venmo or donated to a local El Paso charity.
Once the materials are collected, they will be used for new packaging by D6 Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based packaging thermoformer. D6 is the 22nd-largest thermoformer in North America, with $120 million in annual sales, according to Plastics News data.
The project has seen interest from other material companies, such as water bottle manufacturers, as a way to improve recycling rates.
"We definitely want to share our learnings to help build a system that is convenient for the public and is not a burden for retail," Corbitt said. "And more importantly gets valuable material back to manufacturing."