A pilot program for plastic waste, co-sponsored by Dow Chemical, diverted about 6,000 pounds of typically non-recycled items from landfills in three months.
Other Energy Bag pilot program co-sponsors include the Flexible Packaging Association, Republic Services, Agilyx, Reynolds Consumer Products and the city of Citrus Heights, California.
The program explored an alternative for plastic waste by demonstrating that certain plastics like juice pouches, candy wrappers and plastic dinnerware that are not easily recyclable under traditional models can be converted into synthetic crude oil for fuel.
From June to August, 2014, about 26,000 households in Citrus Heights were provided with purple bags — known as “Energy Bags” — in which participants were asked to collect plastic items not currently eligible for mechanical recycling, so they could instead be diverted from the landfill and converted into energy. Collected items included juice pouches, candy wrappers, plastic pet food bags, frozen food bags, laundry pouches and plastic dinnerware.
The purple Energy Bags were collected from homes during the community’s regular bi-weekly recycling program, sorted at the recycling facility and sent to a plastics-to-energy plant.
Using its patented thermal pyrolysis technology, which is complementary to current mechanical recycling programs, Agilyx converted the previously non-recycled plastics into high-value synthetic crude oil. The crude oil can be further refined and made into valuable products for everyday use such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, fuel oil, lubricants, and can also be transformed back into plastic.
The partners say the results of the pilot show the potential for positive, long-term environmental results, including less landfill trash, more local energy resources and less fossil fuel energy dependence.
During the three-month program, there were six collection cycles resulting in:
- about 8,000 purple Energy Bags collected
- 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil produced from the conversion
- 30 percent citizen participation
- 78 percent of citizens said they would be likely to participate if given another chance
In other recent waste-to-energy efforts, a first-of-its-kind anaerobic digester in California captures methane from agricultural waste and turns it into clean biogas to power an ethanol facility in Tulare County.