It’s in the bag (the big orange recycling bag)!

Technology |  2 min. read

Odds are, there’s some sort of recycling program where you live – newspapers and cardboard.  Cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles.  There is for most of us these days.

It does make sense – we get a second (or third or fourth) use out of perfectly good materials.  So after finishing a bottle of juice, for instance, that old bottle can be turned into a new bottle – or a musical instrument, or cool flip flops, or the seats in a new car.

But there are some plastic materials that are tough to recycle – like potato chip bags and juice boxes – and how to give those a second life, that took some creative thinking.

And the result of that thinking (yes, it’s been done now) is, ta-da:  a big orange bag!

Now if you’re thinking, “Wait, what?”  Here’s what that means (and why it’s such a good idea).

High on that list of plastics which could be reused, but aren’t easy to recycle – are things like potato chip bags and juice pouches, which are also things a lot of us use (especially if you have kids).  Enter Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, and the “Hefty EnergyBag” program (aka, the big orange bag).

The idea was, give every household a roll of the orange bags.  Like this…

Then along with whatever you normally you recycle, you also put out an orange bag with those “difficult” plastics.

…like those.  Your orange bag gets picked up along with your regular recycling.  But then – those bags are taken away for separate processing, using equipment that can handle those special items.

That was the idea. Now it’s been tested in pilot programs around the country – cities like Boise, Idaho; Omaha, Nebraska; Citrus Heights, California – and, it works!  So far, more than 88 tons worth of plastic has been picked up and reused, that would otherwise have wound up in landfills (that’s more than 135,400 big orange bags worth).

So now you’re thinking, “That’s good – but what do they do with that stuff, if it’s so hard to recycle?”  That’s in the pilot stages too – but one day, you might be riding to work on the answer.  Because one answer is – converting that plastic to diesel fuel, for use in buses, and trucks and cars.  (The process is called pyrolysis technology, and if you really want to know more about that, we have to send you over to Wikipedia.)

And yeah, reusing valuable natural resources?  Keeping what we’ve already used out of landfills?  That IS good.