Ahold Dehaize USA, in partnership with ExxonMobil, Cyclyx International and Sealed Air, has participated in a successful demonstration in which plastic waste was collected from grocery stores, diverting it from landfills. Using ExxonMobil’s Exxtend technology for advanced recycling, which breaks the plastic waste into its molecular building blocks and attributes the certified-circular share via mass balance accounting, the plastic waste was converted to new food-grade packaging. Following the viable test, the process is now being evaluated for scale.
Last year, the companies revealed their intention to be the first in the United States to successfully launch a circular food packaging proof of concept leveraging advanced recycling. The creation of a circular economy for food contact plastic packaging in applications with stringent safety and performance requirements has been a difficult challenge facing the industry.
Ahold Delhaize USA’s Food Lion banner, based in Salisbury, N.C., supported the initial pilot, collecting plastic waste for recycling at select store locations.
“Across Ahold Delhaize USA companies, we have ambitious goals around recyclable and reusable packaging,” noted Adam Springer, the grocer’s manager, product sustainability. “Based on the initial pilot, we’re optimistic about being able to leverage this process at additional scale and look forward to exploring it further as part of this collaboration.”
“This project helps demonstrate how Exxtend technology can widen the range of plastic materials that can be recycled while delivering certified-circular polymers with the critical performance attributes of virgin plastic,” said Dan Moore, VP, polyethylene (PE) at Spring, Texas-based ExxonMobil. “Advanced recycling is making the impossible possible and is an important enabler to support a circular economy.”
Cyclyx, a joint venture between Agilyx Corp. and ExxonMobil, sorted and pre-processed the waste packaging materials collected from the Food Lion locations, and then delivered them to ExxonMobil’s Baytown, Texas, facility, where Exxtend tech was used to recycle the end-of-life plastics and attribute them via mass balance accounting to certified-circular polymers.
“The interface between the Food Lion stores and the Baytown facility was critical and required an innovative approach to feedstock management,” said Cyclyx CEO Joe Vaillancourt. “Part of our process is to identify the chemical composition of the waste plastics we receive. This allows us to create custom blends of post-use plastic feedstock that are tailored to the specifications required for advanced recycling.”
Packaging provider Sealed Air converted the certified-circular PE resins into food-grade flexible film that was used, in the case of this proof of concept, to package select Nature’s Promise fresh poultry sold at retail, demonstrating an example of the circular economy.
“By collaborating with suppliers and customers, we were able to identify, design and commercialize an innovative flexible-packaging solution which supports circularity,” observed Ron Cotterman, VP, global corporate affairs at Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air.
To help meet the rising market demand for certified-circular plastics, ExxonMobil plans to increase its annual advanced recycling capacity to 500,000 metric tons, or about 1 billion pounds, by the end of 2026 across various sites worldwide.
Ahold Delhaize’s family of local brands employs more than 414,000 associates in 7,659 grocery and specialty stores. Ahold Delhaize USA, operating more than 2,000 stores across 23 states under the Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Co., Hannaford, and Stop & Shop brands, as well as e-grocer FreshDirect, is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in the United States.