Food City Stores in Tennessee to Become Hub for Advanced Plastics Recycling

Regional grocery retailer partners with Eastman to convert plastics into new materials
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
Marian Zboraj
Food City and Eastman partner to bring additional plastic-recycling options to the Appalachian Highlands region.

Food City has partnered with Eastman, a global specialty materials company, to bring additional plastic-recycling options to the Appalachian Highlands region. The partnership will enable shoppers to drop off their plastic waste at designated collection bins that will be located at three Food City stores beginning in early 2024 in Kingsport, Tenn., where Eastman has its headquarters. The collected plastic will be sorted and processed at Eastman's new mixed-plastics processing facility, part of the new molecular recycling plant that, according to the company, is the largest material-to-material recycling facility in the world, scheduled to be completed around the end of 2023.

“Food City is excited to join forces with Eastman, a world-class company and a long-time leader in our community, to bring plastics recycling to our customers,” said Steven C. Smith, Food City president and CEO. “We are always looking for ways to enhance our environmental stewardship and social responsibility, and this partnership will reduce our carbon footprint and support our local economy. Together, we can make a lasting impact across our region.”

The partnership is part of Eastman and Food City’s commitment to advancing the circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste. By offering collection bins for the public, the partnership will help divert plastic waste from landfills or incineration to create valuable new materials that can be used in a variety of applications again and again. Eastman’s molecular recycling technology breaks down plastic waste into its molecular building blocks, which are then used to create new high-performance plastics that are indistinguishable from virgin materials. This technology can recycle plastics that are typically difficult to recycle, such as colored laundry detergent bottles, clamshell fruit packaging, polyester fabrics, shampoo bottles and much more.

[Read more: "100+ Grocery Brands Commit to Tackling Plastic Pollution"]

“Eastman is proud to partner with Food City, a fellow community leader and innovator, to bring an additional recycling option for plastics to our region,” said Brad Lich, Eastman EVP and chief commercial officer. “This partnership demonstrates our shared vision for a more sustainable future, where plastic waste is seen as a valuable resource that can be transformed into new products. By collaborating with Food City, we are not only providing a solution for plastics recycling, but also educating and engaging our community about the benefits of molecular recycling and the circular economy.” 

After its early 2024 launch at three Food City stores in Kingsport, the initiative will expand to other Food City locations in the region throughout the following months. Customers will be able to drop off their plastic waste, such as water bottles, colored laundry and shampoo bottles, trays, and fruit containers, among many other plastic items. Additional information about how to recycle plastic waste will be shared when the recycling program is officially launched. The collected plastic will be transported to Eastman’s molecular recycling facility, where it will be converted into new materials for various durable goods applications.

The move to provide drop-off locations for customers is in addition to an existing employee recycling program between Eastman and Food City, in which the grocer collects employee plastic waste and provides it to Eastman for molecular recycling.

Eastman is a founding member of the U.S. Plastics Pact, a collaborative initiative to create a circular economy for plastics in the United States by 2025. Food City is a member of the Beyond the Bag Initiative, a multiyear collaboration to identify, test and implement innovative alternatives to single-use plastic retail bags. 

 Food City’s parent company, Abingdon, Va.-based K-VA-T Food Stores, operates more than 150 retail outlets throughout southeast Kentucky, southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, north Georgia and Alabama. K-VA-T is No. 70 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America

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