Due to new international restrictions on many plastic recyclables, Portland-area stores are unable to collect Plastic Bags/Film or Clamshells/Lids for recycling
Effective October 1, 2017
What is happening?
While we have historically accepted plastics from our customers that were not allowed in curbside collection bins, as of October 1st we can no longer offer this service. For years, most plastic collected in the U.S. went overseas for processing. Now, due to new international market restrictions on recycled plastics, local recycling companies have no place to sell them, so they are currently not collecting these plastics.
We expect early 2018 may bring news further impacting recycling markets, so we are waiting until those announcements are made to accurately reassess our packaging options. Since the changes in October, we've been gathering research and information to help us make informed decisions, while focusing on three key areas:
• Educating and retraining staff on the new recycling protocol.
• Packaging education and exploration of options for the future.
• Looking for opportunities to shift consumer options in the shopping experience.
The increase in food packaging nationwide is a response to demand from consumers for convenience and portability, and preservation of foods during travel. At the most basic level, packaging is used because food is grown and produced in one place and consumed in another. Harvesting, processing, storing, transporting, retailing, and avoiding food waste all requires packaging. On average, many times more energy and resources go into the food inside the packaging than the packaging itself.
Packaging use and user disposal is important, but in judging packaging, it's important to consider other stages besides where the packaging ends up after it leaves the consumer. Is it the product manufactured overseas? Made using recycled or raw materials? Is it reusable? How much water or energy goes into making the item? Is it made from GMO corn? Is there a local facility for it to be composted or recycled? For example, Portland does not have a facility accepting compostable packaging, but Seattle does.
At New Seasons Market, we have used the Sustainable Packaging Coalition Guidelines as a frame for looking at our packaging and plan to do so again when we revaluate packaging in spring. Seeking a “sustainable packaging” solution is something we are committed to, but it is a constantly moving target influenced by the variables around it. For example, our clamshell packaging WAS a great choice until the recycling market for it changed.
• We are working on tools and partnerships to continue sharing information and options about how to integrate more reducing, reusing, and recycling into shopping, so keep your eyes out for events and handouts soon!
• We plan to revise packaging in spring 2018.
• We have been collecting great ideas from staff and customers.
• We will continue to divert as much waste we can and will invite customers to join us when possible.
We seek to support customers in being conscious consumers and choosing what is right for them, whether that is bulk greens in reusable bag for a salad tonight or in a clamshell that they know will keep the greens good for the week. After all, whatever you choose, you are welcome here!