WASHINGTON -- Endcap displays of Center Store items, including paper towels and foods packed in recycled steel cans and cardboard boxes, are being built by many retailers as part of the first annual America Recycles Day.
"Many of our stores are having displays in the front that highlight recycled products or packaging," said Linda B. Smith, manager of environmental affairs at San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co. "Since all steel can be recycled, we will be highlighting our own brand. In addition, many of the paper products have recycled paper content in them."
A joint effort of the White House, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the Food Marketing Institute, the Steel Recycling Institute, other recycling associations, leading supermarket chains and various state environmental agencies, America Recycles Day is being observed, this Saturday, Nov. 15, in 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Along with H-E-B, Winn-Dixie Stores, Wal-Mart, Raley's Supermarkets, Schnuck Markets, Shaw's Supermarkets, Giant Food, Target Stores and Home Depot are among the retailers participating in the inaugural event.
"The motto for this year's America Recycles Day, and all of the state programs, is 'Buy Recycled.' That is how the grocery stores and other retailers are highlighting the program in their stores," said Smith of H-E-B.
America Recycles Day is designed to make consumers more aware of how important recycling and recycled products are to both ecology and the economy. It is modeled after Texas Recycles Day, which has been held for the last four years in the Lone Star State.
In addition to displays of recycling-oriented products, retailers are also planning recycled products shopping sprees, street fairs, contests, specially printed grocery bags and school education programs.
Smith, who also sits on the FMI's Environmental Board, said she expects momentum to grow in America Recycles Day each year as supermarket chains get more involved with the event. For next year, H-E-B is looking at creating special "recycled product" shelf tags, she said.
"We don't have shelf tags this year, but because one of the other retailers that is participating as a national sponsor -- Home Depot -- came up with some shelf tags for their stores, we thought that could be something really good that we could come up with for next year," she said.
She said H-E-B is leaving the creation of displays and accompanying signs up to each individual store so it can be tailored to each community.
In San Antonio, H-E-B is co-sponsoring a street fair with Hard Rock Cafe in which recycled products and recycling programs will be highlighted. H-E-B is also sponsoring five $500 shopping sprees in addition to "Enviro Shopping Sprees" in several of its markets where local celebrities, including players from the San Antonio Spurs and local weathermen, will shop for recycled content products.
"The celebrity will go up and down the aisles and fill up the shopping cart with recycled content products. Then we donate those recycled content products to a food bank," she said.
Kevin Tuerff, president of Enviro Media, the Austin, Texas, public relations agency that is coordinating the holiday, said a Wal-Mart store in Danville, Ill., is planning a similar event, pitting reporters against local politicians.
Mickey Clerc, director of advertising at Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., said his chain is working with city and county coordinators on the local level for the event.
"We have encouraged our divisions to participate wherever there is activity, and to help promote recycling by using this as a focus day," he said.
Clerc said Winn-Dixie and other retailers were involved with recycling long before it became the vogue.
"Recycling makes good business sense as well as good sense for the ecology. We recycle cardboard, pallets and everything else that can be reused. By doing that we help to create a market because there has to be a constant supply of recyclables in order for there to be an after-market," Clerc said.
In California, Raley's Supermarkets will be handing its customers pledge cards encouraging recycling, as well as having a message printed on its grocery bags.
"Our final plans are still coming together on what exactly will be happening on the store level," said Kathleen Tschogl, manager of environmental and regulatory affairs at the West Sacramento, Calif.-based chain.
"We will try to promote it to the best of our ability. We are certainly behind it and our corporate philosophy is behind those goals," Tschogl said.
Karil Kochenderfer, director of environmental affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers of America here, said it is important that the industry alert consumers to behind-the-scenes recycling and packaging reductions.
"Even though the population is increasing, municipal solid waste pertaining to grocery packaging has actually been decreasing," she said.
"We are encouraging our members to work with their communities to adopt programs, partnerships and other programs to help with recycling," she said.
Bill Heenan, president of the Steel Recycling Institute in Pittsburgh, and co-chairman of America Recycles Day, along with Fran McPolland, the White House executive on the environment, said several regional contests are being planned for America Recycles Day, along with a national Great American Dream House contest, where one lucky family will win a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath brand new house built out of recycled materials.
"It will be a steel-framed house with a steel roof, aluminum recycled content siding, appliances from Whirlpool, heating and air conditioning from Carrier, and other amenities made from recycled materials," he said.
"You don't find too many contests, other than Ed McMahon, that give away a prize of this magnitude. The house is also an energy-efficient home," he said, noting the local contests are being sponsored by blue-chip concerns including Bell Atlantic, Bell South and Home Depot.
"In order to make recycling work we really need to buy recyclables, cans and other products made with recycled content, and not just stop at the grocery store," he said.