The American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced that Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. has joined the association’s Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG). Wegmans is the first retailer to join the FFRG, a self-funded group in ACC’s Plastics Division dedicated to driving growth in polyethylene film recovery.

Wegmans is a family-owned regional supermarket chain based in Rochester, NY, with more than 80 stores in the eastern United States. The company was ranked the best large U.S. grocery chain by Consumer Reports in 2012.

Wegmans stores have collected used plastic bags for recycling since 1994 – its shoppers return approximately 1.5 million pounds of polyethylene film every year. Wegmans also collects another 1.5 million pounds of plastic stretch/shrink wrap from shipping pallets. The plastics are recycled to make the company’s 40 percent recycled-content grocery bags, as well as durable backyard decking products.

“From plastics recycling to greener store designs, Wegmans’ commitment to sustainability is widely recognized,” said Shari Jackson, director of FFRG. “As the first retail grocer member of the Flexible Film Recycling Group, the company will have valuable insights into programs to increase the recycling of plastic bags and wraps.”

“Recycling of plastic bags and film is one effective way to address environmental concerns,” said Jason Wadsworth, sustainability coordinator for Wegmans. “Because of our closed-loop system, bags and film that customers return for recycling at our stores are made into new Wegmans bags, not litter.”

FFRG membership represents the polyethylene film value chain, including resin suppliers, film product manufacturers, brand owners and recyclers. FFRG works to significantly increase the collection and recycling of all flexible films and to educate the public about the importance of recycling.  

The recycling of postconsumer plastic bags, product wraps and commercial shrink film reached 1 billion pounds in 2011, a 55 percent increase since 2005, according to the most recent “National Postconsumer Plastic Bag & Film Recycling Report.”

“While this is an important achievement, the FFRG believes more can be done to spur significant growth in plastics film recycling,” said Jackson. “This is why we’re working so determinedly to help grocers and retailers, which have the critical infrastructure for recycling plastic film, to maximize the collection of this valuable material by sharing tools, best practices and through consistent customer education.”