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THE TREASURE VALLEY BAGS ITS PLASTIC WASTE

The changes over the past few years have made it clear that basic recycling is not enough to address the amount of waste

Article by Kendall Houlton

Photography by Special to Lifestyle

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Three years ago, the City of Boise collaborated with Happy Family Brands, a local organic baby food company, to apply for a Hefty EnergyBag grant. In January 2018, the city was awarded a $50,000 grant to establish a local Hefty EnergyBag program, allowing Treasure Valley, including households in Boise, Meridian and Eagle, to deposit hard-to-recycle plastics inside orange Hefty bags. It was a groundbreaking initiative to significantly cut back on the types of plastics generally dumped into the traditional bins with the curbside program - it was a novel idea especially for those of us who longed for an option to dispose of our cereal box plastic-liners (the HDPE #2 plastic film bought in bulk for the family!) and the candy wrappers skipping down sidewalks, like tumbleweeds in the afternoon breeze!

The success of this collaboration with local groups, including materials recovery facility Western Recycling, Republic Services, Renewlogy, Happy Family and other local sponsors was important for the long-term success of Hefty EnergyBag. The orange bags were sorted out at the Western Recycling facility and then the plastic waste was sent to be burned or converted into fuels at Renewlogy, a Salt Lake City-based pyrolysis company facility.

When it first started, the program was only available to 100,000 households in three metropolitan areas – Boise, Idaho, Cobb County, Georgia and Omaha, Nebraska. According to Haley Lowry of Resin producer Dow, the EnergyBag® Program was a significant step towards achieving positive long-term environmental and economic advantages, including new alternative energy resources and less plastics ending up in landfills.

HOW DOES THE HEFTY ENERGYBAG PROGRAM WORK?

Step 1 - Fill Bag

Fill the official Hefty® orange bag with plastics that are hard to recycle. Make sure the items are relatively clean and dry.

Step 2 - Place in Recycling

Once filled, tie the official Hefty® orange bag and place in your recycling along with your normal recycling.

Step 3 – Collected with Recycling

The filled bags will be picked up with your normal recycling and then converted into useful resources like energy, fuel and durable building materials.

For the townships in Ada County, it presented an opportunity for the cities to collaborate and rethink the way our waste was managed. But like all innovative ideas, there are fits and starts. Some claim that by removing plastics from the waste stream, efforts are hindered to develop mechanical recycling solutions, and that this type of disposal method will lead to the production of more and more single-use plastic.

Also Renewlogy announced last summer that the Utah plant is not receiving EnergyBags for processing until pre-processing upgrades are installed, which has led to material piling up in Boise. According to wastedive.com, the city estimates it has been holding two large truckloads — about 40 tons — of bagged material until the Renewlogy facility reopens. Public Works indicates this isn't unusual and is prepared to store material for an extended period of time.

Republic Service is still collecting the orange bags so as to “minimize disruption to our customers”, according to Colin Hickman, spokesman for the City’s Public Works department, and the City remains positive about the program’s outlook. According to Renewlogy’s company website, the facility in Salt Lake City is expected to restart during the first quarter of 2020.(resource-recycling.com). 

Regardless of the considerable the obstacles with handling our waste, there appear many solutions to the “problem” of plastics, including finding alternatives to the conventional method of food packaging. In the meantime the cities of the Treasure Valley have made the successful step of addressing the ever looming avalanche of plastic in our lives.

For more information on the Hefty EnergyBag recycling, visit Curbitboise.com.

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