BOULDER, COLO. — Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) presented four Earth Hero Awards to its brand and retail partners’ leadership involving its Flex Forward return-to-retail recycling pilot program, launched in August 2020.

The pilot program wrapped up in February and was deemed successful after exceeding its collection goal of 5,000 lbs of used, flexible pet food and treat packaging. Over the course of four months, the Flex Forward program actually collected 7,000 lbs, or roughly 33,000 used packages.

Earth Hero Awards were presented to Earth Animal, a sponsor of the pilot project and manufacturer of pet foods and other pet products; Pet Food Experts (PFX), another pilot sponsor and distributor for independent pet retailers; Best Friend Nutrition, a Sequim, Wash.-based independent pet store that collected the most used packaging than any other participating location; and Pet Pros, a pet specialty retailer that collected the most used packaging than any other participating multi-store retail chain.

"This has been a really exciting experience for the PFX team,” said Alison Bledsoe, operations coordinator at Pet Food Experts, who accepted the award presented during PSC’s UnPacked21 Sustainable Packaging Soiree. “To take such an active role in this phase of the project was amazing. It was very eye opening to see the amount of packaging that was collected in such a short time. It is great to see such participation among the entire pet community."

Michael Cody, head of digital marketing and sustainability for Earth Animal, agreed with Bledsoe, saying, "The coolest part of the program is that it is a collaboration between all these organizations. It has been an incredible experience.”

Earth Animal provided strategic guidance and leadership on the Flex Forward pilot project, while Pet Food Experts offered logistical support in distributing collection boxes, training participating retailers, and shipping collected packages to a testing location.

Best Friend Nutrition received the “Top Independent Retailer” Earth Hero Award. Owner Cyntia Linden took the opportunity when accepting the award to thank the store’s community for supporting the program.

Aside from collecting the most used packages than any other multi-store retailer, Pet Pros’ Lake Stevens, Wash. store collected the second-most used packages than any other individual retail store, after Best Friend Nutrition.

Georgann McConn, general manager and controller at Pet Pros, added, "This award really belongs to our store teams. I am so proud of how they embraced it, and how our customers embraced it as well. This pilot is a critical and important step for the industry.”

Next, PSC will test collected materials and determine its suitability for being recycled and repurposed into other durable pet products or new packages through its recent partnership with NOVA Chemicals.

Read more about sustainability in the pet food and treat industry.