KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Recycling options in the Tri-Cities will expand next year thanks to a partnership between Food City and Eastman Chemical Company.

Almost three years ago, Eastman announced plans to build a new type of recycling facility in Kingsport.

With the plant set to begin operations by the end of the year, leaders with both businesses announced a plan to begin collecting plastic from customers at Food City’s Kingsport locations to supply the plant.

“We’re incredibly excited to be here today with Food City and announce a wonderful partnership that will allow us to really extend how we bring in waste plastic to our new material-to-material recycling facility that’ll be up and running at the end of this year,” Eastman Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Brad Lich told News Channel 11.

Unlike traditional mechanical recycling, material-to-material recycling, also called molecular recycling, can be repeated an infinite number of times without compromising the quality of the finished product. And it can be used on a wider variety of materials.

“What we can do is actually take any plastic,” Lich said. “Whether that’s carpet, textiles, water bottles, shampoo bottles.”

Plastic collected at three Kingsport Food City locations will become part of the 120,000 tons that the plant processes each year.

Food City Vice President of Human Resources Sherrell Lyon told News Channel 11 the company is excited to make recycling more accessible as curbside recycling has become rarer.

“It’s just unfortunate that due to the economics that most of the local municipalities just cannot make it economically feasible,” Sherrell said. “So with this partnership with Eastman, you take two large employers whose footprint is very large, we will be able to help with this recycling issue that’s been going on that where the resources just have not been available.”

Sherell said the company is still working to finalize designs and locations for the collection bins.

“It should be something where you should be able to pull in, unload and pull out,” Sherrell said.

Kingsport leaders say the partnership is a plus for the community and the companies.

“We think this is going to be a win for all the parties concerned,” Mayor Pat Shull told News Channel 11.

Food City’s recycling program is set to begin early next year. Food City officials said they hope to expand to all stores eventually, but they do not have a date for that yet.