Midland, Michigan-based Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics and Stamford, Connecticut-based nonprofit Keep America Beautiful have announced awarding two $50,000 grants to organizations in Cobb County, Georgia, and Boise, Idaho, to establish the Hefty EnergyBag program in their respective communities. The program, which aligns with Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals, offers an innovative approach to diverting plastics that are not currently recycled—such as chip bags and juice pouches—from landfills and converting the materials into valuable energy resources.
Building on a 10-year partnership through the Great American Cleanup, the largest community improvement program in the U.S., Dow and Keep America Beautiful collaborated to announce the Hefty EnergyBag grant program in July 2017, and sought applications from communities across the U.S. The two winning communities, Cobb County and Boise, rated highest on key selection criteria, which included: host city or municipality, materials recovery facility (MRF) and hauler participation; number of targeted households; availability of existing recycling carts for curbside collection; and accessibility of a suitable end market outlet that will turn the plastics collected into an alternative energy resource.
“We look forward to working with each community as they implement the Hefty EnergyBag program in their area in 2018,” Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, says. “Cobb County and Boise’s adoption of the program is helping Dow and its partners expand efforts to increase plastics recovery across North America.”
The two winning communities will provide collected materials to facilities utilizing advanced non-combustion conversion technologies which can generate a liquid fuel, such as diesel. These technologies 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 and thereby helping create a more circular economy.
Keep Cobb Beautiful Inc., a local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, submitted the application on behalf of Cobb County. Keep Cobb Beautiful and the city of Boise will be collaborating with key local groups including a materials recovery facility, hauler, end-market user and a local brand owner/sponsor, each of which will be vital to the Hefty EnergyBag program’s success.
“Keep Cobb Beautiful Inc. is excited about this innovative program and is looking forward to bringing plastic recovery options and technology to Cobb County residents,” Kimberly White, executive director for Keep Cobb Beautiful Inc., says.
"The city of Boise is committed to sustainability. This program provides an important tool in managing our post-consumer plastics responsibly," Catherine Chertudi, environmental program manager with the city of Boise, says. "The opportunity to keep more plastics out of the landfill through this innovative recovery program is very exciting."
Dow will provide guidelines for these communities and others to implement the program, and oversee the initial planning, implementation and measurement phases. Grant recipients are ultimately responsible for managing the program and identifying and engaging key community stakeholders.
“The Hefty EnergyBag program will complement existing plastic recycling systems in each community,” Diego Donoso, business president for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, says. “By investing in resource recovery, Boise and Cobb County will be able to divert more nonrecycled plastics from landfills by turning these valuable materials into new energy resources.
To date, Hefty EnergyBag curbside and noncurbside programs, which include a 2014 EnergyBag Pilot in Citrus Heights, California, have diverted more than 17 tons of plastics from the landfill. The first full-scale Hefty EnergyBag program launched in Omaha in September 2016. In its first year, the program has collected more than 19,500 bags and diverted approximately 11 tons of plastics, the equivalent to approximately 8.6 million snack-sized chip bags, from the landfill.