Program Overview

The Hefty® EnergyBag® program is a groundbreaking initiative, led by Dow and Reynolds Consumer Products, that collects hard-to-recycle plastics at curbside and converts them into valuable  resources. The program is a significant step towards achieving positive long-term environmental and economic advantages, including fewer plastics ending up in landfills.

Dow and Keep America Beautiful established the Hefty® EnergyBag® Grant to offer communities nationwide the opportunity to implement the Hefty® EnergyBag® program as a permanent part of their existing waste management system. Registration for the third grant program opens Oct. 15, 2018, making another $100,000 of funding available for new community Hefty® EnergyBag® programs!

In January 2018, two $50,000 grants were awarded as part of our first grant program established in 2017. These grants were awarded to organizations in the City of Boise, Idaho and Cobb County, Georgia (Keep Cobb Beautiful Inc.) to establish the Hefty® EnergyBag® programs in their respective communities. Dow’s second $100,000 grant program registration period ended in June 2018, with grant winners to be announced by year-end 2018.

Dow’s aim is to establish Hefty® EnergyBag® programs as viable, self-sustained collection initiatives, which complement mechanical recycling and thereby divert valuable plastics from landfills. Dow will provide grant recipients with the funding and guidance necessary to implement the program in your community.

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How the Hefty® EnergyBag® Program Works

It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3 – Collect, Close and Capture Curbside the valuable resources that remain in hard-to-recycle plastic waste. Participating households collect their hard-to-recycle plastics in Hefty® Energy Bag® orange bags. Once full, residents tightly close the bags by tying them and placing them in their curbside recycling carts or bins during their regularly-scheduled recycling pick-up.

Participants’ current haulers pick up the tied Hefty® EnergyBag® orange bags along with their regular recycling materials and send them to the local materials recovery facility (MRF) for sorting. The MRF pulls out the orange bags and sends them to an approved end market, which captures the value of these plastics by converting them into new resources. The easily recognized Hefty® EnergyBag® orange bags are never opened at the MRF, nor do the bags go through the MRF, making recycling operations more efficient.  The program utilizes existing recycling infrastructure and is complementary to mechanical recycling systems.

The Environmental Benefits

The Hefty® EnergyBag® program provides many environmental and economic benefits, including:

  1. The diversion of valuable resources from landfills
  2. The conversion of hard-to-recycle plastics into alternative energy resources, which can be used to power businesses, cars and homes
  3. Improved efficiency of existing mechanical recycling programs by reducing the amount of hard-to-recycle plastics going to materials recovery facilities, ultimately improving the quality of recycled materials such as paper and cardboard
  4. Potential cost savings that aid in the decrease of waste management costs
  5. The reduction of fossil fuels extracted from the ground
  6. Increased consumer engagement and education of resource recovery

Omaha, Nebraska Hefty® EnergyBag® Program

The Hefty® EnergyBag® program has been operating Omaha and area since October 2016, where previously hard-to-recycle plastics are collected and converted into valuable energy resources. With support from local mayors, the program demonstrates the feasibility of collecting hard-to-recycle plastics, sorting them at local materials recycling facilities and effectively converting them into energy resources at energy conversion facilities – all via an existing waste management infrastructure.

The Omaha area program has grown from 6,000 households to over 25,000 households in early 2018, and now includes communities of La Vista, Bellevue, Louisville, Ralston, Papillion and Oakland, and continues to grow.   

As of August 2018, the Omaha and area programs have collected approximately 74,000 EnergyBag® orange bags and diverted 42 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics from landfills.  If converted to diesel, this would represent an equivalent of 200 barrels of fuel being generated.

Boise, Idaho Hefty® EnergyBag® Program

The Hefty® EnergyBag® program in Boise launched in May 2018 where initially 74,000 households participated in the program.  The Boise program includes flexible plastic packaging and also #4-6 plastics which they were unable to continue to export to China due to the recent import ban.  The Boise program has since grown to surrounding communities including Eagle, Garden City and Meridian and currently collects from over 80,000 households.

As of August 2018, the Boise and area programs have collected over 150,000 EnergyBag® orange bags, and diverted 106 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics from landfills.  

Citrus Heights, California 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 kicked off in 2014. It was the first program of its kind in the United States which demonstrates that hard-to-recycle plastics can be collected at curbside and diverted from landfills and converted into new valuable resources such as diesel fuel.

Program Results

  • 26,000 households in Citrus Heights participated in the program, yielding a 30 percent participation rate
  • 1/3 of targeted homeowners participated at some point during the pilot
  • Collected nearly 8,000 bags in three months
  • Diverted approximately 6,000 pounds of hard-to-recycle plastics from landfills
  • Produced 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil
  • 78 percent of citizens said they would likely participate in the program if given another chance

Success of the Citrus Height pilot led Dow and Reynolds to expand the program to new communities as permanent programs, initially in Omaha and Boise and surrounding areas, with an upcoming new program in Cobb County, GA later in 2018.  The Hefty® EnergyBag® program continues to expand across North America.