Program Overview

The Dow Chemical Company and Keep America Beautiful established the Hefty® EnergyBag program to make their community more sustainable. Grant recipients will receive guidance from Dow and $50,000 to implement the program in their community.  The 2017 Grant Application period is now closed.

What is the Hefty® EnergyBag program?

The Hefty® Energy Bag Program addresses several challenges by collecting non-recycled plastic items - like juice pouches, chip bags, meat and cheese bags, cereal and cake box pouches, candy wrappers and plastic utensils - at curbside. These plastics are diverted from landfills and converted into a valuable resource, such as an alternative energy, fuel (diesel or oil) or a chemical feedstock which can be used to make new plastics in a closed-loop system, advancing the circular economy. 

How does the Hefty® EnergyBag program work?

  1. Participating households continue to recycle materials accepted in their communities and place currently non-recycled plastic materials into Hefty® Energy Bag™ orange bags once cleaned and dried. 
  2. Full Hefty® Energy Bag orange bags are put curbside in recycle carts or bins at the same day/time as regular recyclables.
  3. Collected Hefty® Energy Bag orange bags are delivered to a Material Recycling Facility (MRF) where they are sorted and delivered to local energy recovery facilities.
  4. Energy recovery facilities then convert the contents of the Hefty® Energy Bag orange bags into valuable resources.

What challenges does the Hefty® EnergyBag program address?

There are many challenges which restrict the ability to mechanically recycle flexible plastic packaging:

a) Technical Challenges: In order to recycle plastics, each individual polymer needs to be separated. However, various flexible plastic packages are made from several materials such as sealant layers, tie-layers and various barrier layers that decrease the quality of the recyclable materials.

b) Infrastructure Challenges: Currently, flexible plastic packaging is not broadly collected nor able to be sorted at MRFs. Also, many flexibles get entangled during a MRF’s separation process which causes adverse downtime and expenses for operators.

c) Consumer Challenges: Consumers generally want to do the right thing by recycling their waste yet they are confused about what is allowed to be recycled in their communities, reducing recycling rates.


Citrus Heights EnergyBag Pilot Program

Sponsored by Dow, the Flexible Packaging Association and Republic Services, along with the City of Citrus Heights, a three-month EnergyBag Pilot in 2014 was the first of its kind in the United States to collect non-recycled plastics at curbside and divert them from landfills in order to optimize resource efficiency. 

Materials collected during the EnergyBag program were converted into high-value synthetic crude oil at a local plastics-to-energy plant that used a patented thermal pyrolysis technology. 

Program Results

  • 1/3 of targeted homeowners participated at some point during the pilot.
  • ~8,000 bags were collected in three months.
  • ~6,000 pounds of non-recycled plastics were diverted from landfills.
  • 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil were produced.

Omaha Hefty® EnergyBag Program

Based on the success of the 2014 EnergyBag Pilot in Citrus Heights, California, the Hefty® EnergyBag program launched its first phase of the Omaha program in September 2016 with 6,000 Recyclebank members.

The Omaha area was selected to host the Hefty® EnergyBag program for a number of reasons including:

  • Residents committed to recycling
  • A seamless sorting process at First Star Recycling (a MRF)
  • Recyclebank’s commitment and partnership with its existing member base of Omaha area residents.
  • Conagra Brands’ support of viable options for recovering value from used packaging.

Local partners served as great advocates for the Hefty® EnergyBagprogram.