An effort to capture hard-to-recycle plastics from the waste stream is expanding into two new communities on opposite sides of the country.
The Hefty EnergyBag program is launching in Cobb County, Ga., and Boise, Idaho, with the help of $50,000 grants from Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics and Keep America Beautiful.
The projects will divert plastics such as chip bags and juice pouches from landfills. These plastics can cause sortation problems when included in traditional recycling efforts.
The EnergyBag program uses orange Hefty-branded bags to separate those materials from other recyclables. Consumers put the bags in recycling bins, but the bags are easily removed from the recycling stream once they hit material recovery facilities
Collected together, the bags and their contents are then sent elsewhere. In the case of the Omaha, Neb., area, where the first permanent EnergyBag program was established, the contents are used as fuel for a cement kiln.
But in the case of both Cobb County and Boise, plans are to convert the collected plastics into liquid fuel through non-combustion technologies.
Conversion technologies that will be used "also have the longer-term potential to generate feedstocks in a closed-loop system and can be used to produce new plastics, keeping resources in use and at their highest value," the funding groups said.
An EnergyBag pilot program launched in 2014 in Citrus Heights, Calif., to prove the concept. That effort used purple bags before Hefty became involved.
A full-scale project started in Omaha in 2016 and saw the collection of more than 19,500 bags and about 11 tons of plastics in the first year of operation. Boise and Cobb County, in the Atlanta metropolitan area, become the second and third locations.
"The City of Boise is committed to sustainability. This program provides an important tool in managing our post-consumer plastics responsibly," said Catherine Chertudi, city environmental program manager, in a statement.
Organizers of the EnergyBag program envision a network of communities around the country adopting the program in the years ahead.
"Cobb County and Boise's adoption of the program is helping Dow and its partners expand efforts to increase plastics recovery across North America," said Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, in a statement.
Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics is a unit of DowDupont Inc. Hefty is a unit of Reynolds Consumer Products.