After COVID-Related Delays, Reusables Options Will Expand at the Co-op

By Alisa Shargorodsky and Timothy Moyer, Weavers Way Plastics Reduction Task Force

The Plastics Reduction Task Force is happy to announce the expansion of a current reusable container program and the creation of another at Weavers Way to further our lower waste efforts.

For some time now, the Co-op’s Ambler location has allowed shoppers to return their clean, empty Wholesome Dairy glass yogurt jars to that store. Wholesome Dairy, located in Douglassville, Berks County, is owned by dairy farmer Mark Lopez. He periodically picks up the jars, sanitizes and reuses them. Recently, the program expanded to the Mt. Airy store. 

Before returning your yogurt jars to either location, please make sure they are washed and have no food residue in them. Even though Mark sanitizes them in a commercial facility, we don’t want them getting funky in transport. Recently, there has been some discussion about having the Co-op offer a deposit on the jars so more will come back to him; a continuing COVID-related national glass shortage has made it difficult for vendors who use glass to keep enough on hand. As of now, no decision has been made about whether or when that will happen.

Container Refund Program - Our Own Soups!

The Co-op’s next container return program is set to debut on Earth Day, April 22, when we will switch out our 20,000-plus plastic quart-sized soup containers with reusable glass jars. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our Prepared Foods departments have been selling about 2,000 quarts of soup each month, so this change will have a major impact on plastic usage. When customers purchase a quart of soup, a $2 deposit will be added to each jar. Once the jar is returned, washed and free of food residue, the shopper gets back their deposit, making no trash in the process. 

The buyback is made possible through a partnership with ECHO Systems, a Philly-based environmental consulting, education and design firm. The Co-op will work with ECHO Systems to clean all of the containers in a commercial facility and will maintain the highest level of caution in handling and sanitizing containers to prevent the spread of COVID. According to a statement recently released by Greenpeace International and signed by 124 epidemiologists worldwide, reusables impose no additional risk to public health than single-use packaging.

If you buy soup in the quart containers, we hope you will return your empties to the Co-op when the change is made to redeem your deposit and support us in our plastic reduction effort. Our vendor informed us that the jars are running low in stock, so returning them will help us reduce the need to keep buying more.These measures represent a resumption of Weavers Way’s efforts to further cut back on its use of plastic.

Prior to COVID, the Co-op was planning to roll out the largest plastic reduction campaign in its history, but the pandemic’s arrival forced the postponement of those efforts. Weavers Way General Manager Jon Roesser instituted these adjustments and the official launch of the campaign. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about the new initiatives, both positive and negative. Reach out to us via our Facebook page or email (prtf@weaversway.coop).