John, who was calling on behalf of a major Boston area supermarket, thought that perhaps we could help. Frankly, John proved more helpful to me than I was to him.
The Web site, www.materialsexchange.org, states that it "links your business with others that have materials you can use, or can use materials you throw out!" I searched the site for packaging and found a modest listing of burlap bags, plastic bags, and pallets and skids.
Individual states listings
Apparently, as John explained, many states have such programs. The Environmental Protection Agency site offers a link to a state-by-state listing at www.epa.gov/jtr/comm/exchstat.htm.
I found out my state does--the Illinois Industrial Materials Exchange Service’s Web site is www.epa.state.il.us/land/imes. It offers a PDF format download of the latest listings, which gives specifics along with city locations; the document would take up 55 pages if printed. For example, one source offers one ton monthly of 40’’x48’’x0.027’’ HDPE sheets. Another offers 20ꯠ black HDPE beverage pallets weekly.
Likely we’ve all heard of food banks. Materials exchanges, in their own environmentally friendly way, also provide a win-win venue. If you weren’t already aware of these kinds of programs, check to see if there’s one near your location. You might find something you can use--or someone to use your packaging leftovers. This may be one of those instances where it’s better to receive than to give. And just maybe I finally helped John after all.