Would you like to see a “Recycling Receipt” at the grocery store?

Here is a Q&A with Bob Fortner, who is leading the charge to try and get a new look receipt implemented in New Seasons and other local grocery stores.

Recycling Advocate (RA): What’s the “Recycling Receipt”?

Bob Fortner (BF): It’s an electronic receipt for your grocery store purchases that shows you very precisely what’s recyclable, compostable or garbage for each piece of packaging for each product you buy.

The idea is to make recycling easier for customers and to reduce contamination of the recycling stream. Also, if people vote with their wallets, they’ll begin to buy sustainably packaged products and producers will follow the financial incentive to go green.

Check out the video below from Bob at our 2019 annual meeting, discussing the Recycling Receipt…

RA: How will it help the citizens of Portland? The world?

BF: Besides making recycling simpler, we’ll be able to move towards a closed loop economy where anything that gets made can be recycled. We need to create a recycling infrastructure here and stop wishfully tossing it overseas where, as we know, it can wind up in the ocean. As this tool scales up to be used in other cities, it will hopefully shape not just regional, but national and international material conservation, sustainable use and flows.

RA: Who supports the Recycling Receipt concept?

BF: Our local government is very enthusiastic. When I showed the concept to Mayor Wheeler’s sustainability adviser, the response was: “How soon can you do this?” I also have spoken with folks at Metro, which of course manages garbage and recycling in the Portland area. The reaction there was: “It’s brilliant.”

In academic circles, Katie Conlon, is a Fulbright Scholar, National Science Fellow and PhD student at PSU’s Institute for Sustainability. Katie put together a two-page letter of endorsement (with footnotes!) which describes the receipt as “an exceptional, necessary, and timely initiative for our times.”

And throughout the Portland ecosystem of green advocates and organizations, people are pretty on fire for the idea. I’ve discussed possible synergies with Jocelyn Quarrell, who runs GO Box, and she’s a fan. B-line founder, Franklin Jones, emphatically endorses the receipt idea. And don’t forget Recycling Advocates!

At New Seasons, where I came up with the idea, people totally dig the Recycling Receipt.

RA: Why are you working on a petition, gathering New Seasons employee signatures?

BF: So far, we have support from the Mayor’s office, interest from Metro in providing grants to help fund implementation, and grass roots fervor among New Seasons employees. But it hasn’t resulted in approval from executive management. Fortunately, New Seasons cultivates what it calls “speak up” culture. And that’s what we’re doing. I think ultimately everyone will wind up on the same page.

RA: How’s the petition going?

BF: It’s taken off. Over 100 staff at the Williams store where I work has signed, both rank and file as well as managers. It’s caught on at other stores and even at Store Support [New Seasons headquarters]. People spontaneously support the idea and sign the petition–like last night at the Recycling Advocates annual meeting!

RA: You started a for-profit company to pursue this idea, right?

BF: Yes. It’s called Treeceipt. Originally I just proposed to New Seasons that the company do this project internally. But the feedback I got was that it actually makes more sense to have an independent entity provide the receipt as a service–which could be extended other grocery stores chains.

Green Zebra here in Portland has electronic receipts which could incorporate recycling information. So does Walmart. It would be a little ironic if they did this first, but since climate change is global, getting to that scale would wring the most benefit out of this idea.

Ideally, most stores would encourage electronic receipts, in order to reduce the amount of paper already being used for receipts.

I had little desire to launch a start-up since they notoriously consume your life. But it wasn’t going to happen otherwise.

RA: What’s next for the Recycling Receipt?

BF: I believe New Seasons is the perfect launch partner. So I’m doing everything I can to try to get them on board, just constructively engaging and showing how pretty much all the stakeholders here in the Portland area are very much on board. And there are public funds that could fund a great deal of the undertaking.

If we bring this to the attention of top management at New Seasons, they’ll jump at the opportunity, right? I’m optimistic…

You can follow the progress of this project on Instagram @packagethis. To learn more about this initiative, reach out to Bob at robertfortner@yahoo.com