After 40 years of consumer education about the importance of recycling and curbside recycling programs throughout much of the United States, consumers see recycling as a civic duty.
In May 2021, Keep America Beautiful released a study on litter in America, which updates the previous 2009 study. The study shows that progress has been made in reducing roadway litter in the last decade within several product categories like fast-food packaging, soft drink containers and construction debris.
According to the study, cigarette butts continue to be the single most littered item in the United States, although cigarette butt litter has declined dramatically since 2009. Plastic films, both general use films and food packaging films, such as candy wrappers or snack bags, represent the second and third most littered items.
To help convenience retailers enhance their current recycling program, NACS and the Can Manufacturers Institute produced a resource, “The Value of Can and Bottle Recycling,” that identifies two significant benefits for retailers with recycling programs: enhancing the brand and improving customer service. It also provides numerous recommendations and a checklist for launching or enhancing a recycling program along with a list of additional resources.
Convenience store customers also say they would like to see recycling bins outside and inside the stores. The NACS report, “Convenience Store Industry’s Take on Trash,” found that more than half of consumers think retailers need to add more recycling bins.
Retailers like Iowa-based Kum & Go work with community partners on opportunities with innovation and technology that might make recycling available consistently at all its 400+ store locations.
Pennsylvania-based Sheetz recycles plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass, cardboard and office paper at its corporate facilities, and its distribution centers in Claysburg, PA, and Burlington, NC, also recycle shrink wrap, pallets and plastic buckets that are a part of its distribution operations. At the store level, Sheetz recycles plastic, metal, glass, and paper at nearly 400 store locations throughout its operating footprint where recycling services are available. These efforts offset more than 4,000 tons of material from being sent to landfills.
In its 2019 Environmental Sustainability Review report, Oklahoma-based QuikTrip reported that it ollected 1,669 tons of the “big five” recyclables: paper, glass, cardboard, plastic and aluminum.
Iowa-based Casey's, which operates more than 2,000 stores in 16 states, has a comprehensive recycling program throughout its stores and distribution centers, including cardboard/packaging, pallets, metal, appliances and light bulbs. The company's Store Support Center and related facilities have implemented a number of paper-reduction initiatives and related paper recycling programs.