NORFOLK, Neb. — Affiliated Foods Midwest here is commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this week by distributing plastic bags made with 40% recycled content.
The bags are part of a special Happy Earth Day promotion at the cooperative wholesaler that also includes manufacturer support and other initiatives.
“We thought these bags would tie in perfectly with our ads, since they are 40% recycled content,” Helen Bailey, category manager for store supplies at AFM, told SN last week.
The company purchased a truckload of the commemorative bags — 2,880 cases of 1,000 bags each, or nearly 3 million bags — through a sourcing initiative at Braintree, Mass.-based TopSource, a division of private-label supplier Topco.
The bags themselves were the brainchild of Mark Daniels, vice president of marketing and environmental affairs at supplier Hilex Poly Co., Hartsville, S.C., who told SN he thought the 40% recycled content and 40th anniversary of Earth Day made a good fit.
“Affiliated Foods was one of our customers who thought that was a good idea,” he said.
The plastic-bag industry has a goal of producing all bags with 40% recycled content by 2015, he explained. One of the challenges, however, is the limited volume of recycled plastic generated in the U.S. each year — estimated at about 830 million pounds in 2008 and growing at about 20% per year — is sought after by other industries as well.
That's why Hilex Poly in 2005 implemented a “bag-to-bag” program, and has placed 30,000 plastic-recycling bins in retail locations around the country. Supermarkets return the used bags and other recyclable plastic to their warehouses, where Hilex Poly picks it up and compensates the retailer.
The bags that are made using 40% recycled content can be produced at the same price — or even cheaper — and are just as strong as traditional plastic bags, Daniels said.
“We've cracked the code on how to wash all the contaminants out, such as paper receipts,” he said, noting that the recycled plastic is triple-washed before being converted into pellets.
At AFM, the bags are printed with the 40th anniversary/40% recycled plastic verbiage, as well as the logos of the company's Topco private-label lines. Some AFM member companies also sell reusable bags, which also contain private-label logos.
The Happy Earth Day ads at AFM are being supported by Clorox Co., Frito-Lay and Kellogg Co. The ads are scheduled to run beginning this Wednesday, April 21, the day before Earth Day.