KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Eastman Chemical Company and Food City, two of the largest companies in the Tri-Cities, are partnering to bring additional plastics recycling options to the region.
On Wednesday, Eastman and Food City leaders gathered at the grocery store’s location on North Eastman Road in Kingsport to announce the plans.
Food City Vice President of Marketing Kevin Stafford said customers will be able to drop of their plastic waste at designated collection bins at three Food City locations in Kingsport beginning in early 2024.
The collected plastic will be transported to Eastman’s new mixed plastics processing facility in Kingsport, which Brad Lich, Eastman’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said is the largest material-to-material recycling facility in the world.
Lich said Eastman is proud to partner with Food City, which has about 150 stores in five states, to bring additional recycling options for plastics to the region.
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“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,” Lich said.
Lich said Eastman sees the partnership as a way to educate and engage the community about the benefits of molecular recycling and the circular economy.
Customers will have to wait until the collection bins are in place in early 2024, Stafford said.
The goal, he added, is to place additional bins at other Food City locations in the future.
Stafford said Food City employees have been collecting waste products for the project.
By offering convenient and accessible recycle options to drop off plastics 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, Lich said.
Eastman will retain and reuse most of the collected materials, Lich said, but they may have to contract out for other materials that it cannot use.
Food City’s Sherrill Lyon said the partners will be able to collect all sorts of plastics, except for PVC.
Lich said Eastman’s processes allow them to recycle products that are not easily recyclable, such as colored bottles, fruit packaging, shampoo bottles and polyester fabrics. Most processes go through just a couple steps while Lich said Eastman uses about 10 steps to more thoroughly recycle the materials.
“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,” Food City President and CEO Steve Smith said in a news release. “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.”
Eastman and Food City plan to release additional information for the public on how to recycle waste when the program is officially launched in 2024.
Stafford said additional logistics are still being determined on how to further expand and develop the partnership.