By Erica Ocampo
Sustainability and Advocacy Manager, North America
Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics
NON-RECYCLED PLASTICS TO ENERGY:
THE POWER OF COLLABORATION
When it comes to reducing plastics discards, there are opportunities to increase recycling rates and convert non-recycled waste into energy. By integrating plastics recycling with energy recovery programs, non-recycled plastic can be diverted from landfills and converted to a beneficial use.
The Dow Chemical Company’s Energy Bag Program set out to do just that. The three-month pilot was designed to collect plastics not currently accepted by existing curbside recycling programs and convert them into synthetic crude oil. Program partners included Republic Services, Agilyx, Reynolds Consumer Products, The American Chemistry Council, The Flexible Packaging Association, and the City of Citrus Heights, California.
The program was launched using existing infrastructure to allow for easy adoption for participants and collection companies. Nearly 26,000 residents of single-family households serviced by Republic in Citrus Heights, CA were asked to place plastic packaging and other plastic items not included in the city’s existing curbside recycling program into the provided bright purple “Energy Bags.” (These plastics included items such as juice pouches, snack wrappers and cheese packages.)
Once full, residents were asked to place the purple bags into their recycling bins. The content of the recycling bins was collected and transported to Republic’s Newby Island, CA Resource Recovery Park Recyclery. The collected Energy Bags were bundled into an “Energy Bale” for shipment to Agilyx’s Tigard-based plastics-to-oil facility, where the collected materials were converted into synthetic fuel oil using their pyrolysis Gen 6 technology.
Initial Results of the Energy Bag Program
Pilot program initial results are extremely positive. Residents who participated did a great job of placing the requested materials in the Energy Bags, and they felt good about reducing their landfill waste. Their participation also helped reinforce which types of plastics can and should be recycled in Citrus Heights. Since the program was launched, additional communities have expressed interest in starting their own pilot programs.
The Future of Energy Recovery
We would like to see this program expand to communities across the country. To do so, we need to unite in a broad coalition that includes communities, material suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners, retailers, the waste and recycling industry, and non-governmental organizations. We can educate policy makers and the public about this untapped opportunity to divert valuable resources from landfills.
For more information about the Energy Bag Pilot Program, the documentary and full report can be found at www.dow.com/energybag.
To join our efforts and bring the program to a community near you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The conclusions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or The Dow Chemical Company. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AMERIPEN, its members, or affiliates.