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Groups Aim to Make Recycling at Convenience Stores Convenient

A new guide from NACS and CMI offers tips for improving current practices and a checklist to help retailers reduce contamination in their recycling bins.

Two trade groups are encouraging recycling efforts at convenience stores nationwide with a new effort—“The Value of Can and Bottle Recycling.”

The new guide from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) offers tips and suggestions for improving current practices, how to effectively communicate the goals of the program with staff and customers, as well as a checklist to help retailers reduce contamination in their recycling bins.

“We frequently survey consumers and retailers about various issues. In one recent survey, we found that more than half of all convenience store customers say they’d like to see more recycling at their local convenience store,” says Carolyn Schnare, director of strategic initiatives for the Alexandria, Va.-based NACS. “In-store recycling is more commonplace, but recycling at the pump is where 70 percent of American drivers say they dispose of trash from their vehicle while refueling.”

Additionally, about half of all Americans shop at a convenience store each day, contributing to 165 million transactions daily, which presents an additional opportunity to promote recycling.

“Consumers want to be good environmental stewards,” said Robert Budway, president of Washington, D.C.-based CMI, in a statement. “And having the ability to recycle aluminum beverage packaging away from home is a win-win for can manufacturers, convenience stores and consumers. We believe that increasing away-from-home recycling of aluminum cans will benefit the entire recycling system.”

For customers, recycling at a convenience store needs to be just that—convenient.

“When we asked consumers what they do with recyclables if there isn’t recycling available at the gas pump, almost half said they will carry it in their car until they find a recycling container,” says Schnare. “With 70 percent of customers cleaning out trash from their cars when fueling up, having a clearly identified recycling bin will give them a convenient place to easily sort their trash and their recyclables.”

The new guide is intended to help retailers improve their recycling efforts specifically at the fuel island. It provides guidance for retailers that sell fuel, which includes of the 153,000-plus convenience stores in the U.S., about 122,000 locations that sell fuel.

“We are working with a small group of retailers, industry suppliers and sustainability experts to identify additional resources, partners and programs to encourage recycling of traditional and nontraditional items at convenience stores,” says Schnare. “We also work with Keep America Beautiful to offer stores free cigarette butt disposal receptacles and with Terracycle to give them an avenue to recycle the cigarette butts after collection.”

Implementing recycling opportunities at convenience stores can be challenging given the different municipal regulations and waste company procedures that can widely vary.

“For larger convenience companies with multiple locations, every store’s location may have a different set of rules on what can and cannot be recycled, which makes it challenging for a company to execute consistent operational procedures,” says Schnare. “Also, contamination is often cited as a challenge—a fineable offense in some cities—which is often a result of customers not recycling properly.”

However, there can be an upside in dealing with the varying waste infrastructures. Depending on the municipality and hauler contract, there is a potential for cost savings by reducing the amount of waste picked up if proper recycling is diverted into the correct waste stream, according to Schnare.

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