WM, Dow partner on new program for residential recycling of plastic films

The companies say their initiative, currently in a pilot phase, is the first of its kind in the U.S.

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Houston-based WM and Midland, Michigan-based Dow Inc. are launching a collaboration they say will improve residential recycling of plastic films by allowing consumers in select markets to recycle those materials curbside.

The companies say they’re combining WM’s broad reach as a comprehensive environmental solutions provider with Dow’s leadership in material science to build new infrastructure that is intended to help close existing recycling gaps, driving a more circular value chain in the U.S. for plastic materials.

The initiative has kicked off with a pilot program in the Chicago-area community of Hickory Hills, Illinois, which the companies say reaches approximately 3,500 households, with more cities to follow across the country. Consumers in the program’s pilot cities will be able to recycle film plastics such as bread bags, cling wrap and dry-cleaning bags directly in their curbside recycling.

According to research conducted by The Recycling Partnership, Washington, only 1.9 percent of U.S. households currently have access to curbside plastic film recycling, which is the plastic material with the lowest overall recycling rate. Once operating at full capacity, WM says it expects the new program will help it divert more than 120,000 metric tons of plastics film per year from landfills.

“By providing residential customers with a simple, curbside option for recycling plastic films, we will not only help our customers more easily manage their used plastic film products, but also meet the rising demand for recycled content products,” WM President and CEO Jim Fish says. “We recognize that to continue to meet and exceed our sustainability goals, we need to continue to expand our circularity solutions. We see tremendous untapped potential to recycle and reuse plastic film, which many of our residential customers struggle to properly dispose.”

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WM says it expects to invest over $800 million through 2025 to improve and enhance recycling infrastructure, including specialized technology that will allow the company to sort plastic films. WM will lead the collection and processing for the film recycling pilots and continue to identify film recycling opportunities across the U.S.

By 2025, WM says it expects its film recycling to reach 8 percent of U.S. households.

Dow says it is supporting the initiative by incorporating recycled content into its product solutions, in line with its updated Transform the Waste sustainability commitment to deliver 3 million metric tons of circular and renewable solutions by 2030. Dow says it is working to increase recovery rates and drive towards a circular ecosystem for hard-to-recycle plastics through its material science expertise, offtakes, cart donations, technology and circular investments.

“Enabling a circular economy requires broad stakeholder collaboration, innovation and investment throughout the value chain to continue to more rapidly develop and advance solutions at scale,” Dow Chairman and CEO Jim Fitterling says. “Through our collaboration with WM, we’re determined to launch new programs that grow recycling infrastructure and access nationwide, creating a more comprehensive system where films and flexible plastics form a key pillar of our circular product offerings.”

The companies say their partnership will build on their continued support for a more expansive recycling system across the U.S. Earlier this year, WM announced its agreement to acquire a controlling interest in Houston-based Avangard Innovative’s post-consumer resin (PCR) business, creating Natura PCR—an independent company WM says it expects to produce an estimated 400 million pounds of PCR pellets per year over a five-year period. Natura PCR is expected to provide circular solutions for films and clear plastic wrap used commercially, such as plastic stretch wrap for pallets, furniture film, grocery bags and shrink wrap around food and beverage containers.

Dow says it will continue to grow its Revoloop PCR product line while also increasing circular ecosystem projects with WM. Together, the companies say that these projects will increase the recycling rates of plastics and create sustainable solutions in packaging, infrastructure and consumer applications.

“As an elected official and resident of Hickory Hills, I am honored the City of Hickory Hills was chosen to participate in this new plastic film recycling program,” Hickory Hills City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone says. “The City of Hickory Hills is extremely excited to be a part of this latest recycling initiative. I think the things everyone can do are small things, but if they are done, it will eventually help the environment. I think recycling is the biggest effort we are making.”

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