Hefty® EnergyBag™ Program
The Hefty® EnergyBag™ initiative is a unique energy recovery program that is currently being offered in Omaha, Nebraska -- the only metropolitan area to provide this opportunity at the present time.
The program entails collecting “non-recyclable” plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled by the City’s recycling processor (First Star Recycling) and then shipping the material to a cement production plant near Kansas City where it is burned as combustion fuel to power a cement kiln.
Omaha residents can participate by placing their non-recyclable plastics in bright orange Hefty® EnergyBags™. Once the orange bags are full of material and tied shut, residents can place the bags in their curbside green recycling bins or take the bags to one of the City’s recycling drop-off sites.
Examples of non-recyclable plastics that are accepted by the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program include candy wrappers, potato chip bags, toothpaste tubes, and shredded cheese bags. For a more comprehensive list, please see the noted section below.
Per the sponsors of the program, the long-term goal of the Hefty® EnergyBag™ initiative is to transition from an energy recovery program (i.e., burning it as fuel) to a feasible chemical-recycling endeavor in which the collected material is converted back into a base substance that can be used to produce new plastic items.
Where can you obtain the orange Hefty® EnergyBags™? You can purchase them online at MyBrands.com. You can also buy them at HyVee, Family Fare, Bakers and Menards stores in the Omaha metro area.
Which plastic items can you place in the orange Hefty® EnergyBags™ bags? Please note that you should not place recyclable plastic items in the orange bags. It is a better environmental option to recycle materials versus burn items for energy.
- All “non-recyclable” plastic items can be placed in the orange bags. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Snack bags and candy wrappers
- Plastic packaging and wrapping for meat and deli products
- Toothpaste tubes
- Plastic utensils
- Polystyrene (styrofoam) cups, bowls, and take-out containers
- Beverage pouches (e.g., Capri Sun squeezable containers)
- Salad, fruit, and vegetable bags
- Condiment packets
- Plastic pet food bags
- Single-serve coffee pods (without the coffee grounds)
- Disposable razors (without the blades)
- Plastic straws and stirrers
- Foam packing material (e.g., packaging peanuts)
Which items should NOT be placed in the orange Hefty® EnergyBags™ bags?
- Any plastic item that is recyclable. A good rule of thumb is that if it is a “rigid or hard” plastic, it can be recycled and should NOT go in an orange bag. Click here for the City of Omaha’s Wasteline website, which notes items that can be recycled locally.
- Plastic retail/grocery bags, newspaper bags; bread bags; ziplock bags; bubble wrap & air pillows; wrapping on cases of water, paper towels, napkins, disposable cups, bathroom tissue, and electronic items; and plastic cereal box liners. All of these special “soft plastic” items can be placed in the recycling containers located near the entrances of participating grocery stores.
- Non-plastic items should not be placed in the orange bags, such as food waste, paper, glass, and metals.
What is Keep Omaha Beautiful’s approach to waste/materials management?
Keep Omaha Beautiful recommends following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s non-hazardous materials and waste management hierarchy. The EPA’s waste management hierarchy places emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling (in that order) as key to sustainable materials management. If a material cannot be reused or recycled, energy recovery can be considered, followed by treatment and/or disposal in the landfill.
Why does Keep Omaha Beautiful recommend the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program?
After careful analysis of the program, Keep Omaha Beautiful shares the perspective of many other local experts and “cautiously” supports and recommends the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program. The reason for our “cautious” support is because we believe the program has great potential to effectively transition from an energy recovery process to a chemical recycling endeavor (which is a better environmental option). However, we would like to see the program sponsors (specifically the Dow Chemical Company) provide a more detailed plan and timeline noting how the program will transition to chemical recycling. In summary, we definitely encourage residents to participate to help improve and scale the program so that it can eventually transition from energy recovery to a true recycling program.
For more detailed information about the environmental benefits and drawbacks of the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program, please check out a recent report completed by the Omaha-based sustainability consulting firm, Verdis Group.
Who are the sponsors of the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program?
- The Dow Chemical Company
- Reynolds Consumer Products
- Conagra Brands
- Systech Environmental Corporation
- First Star Recycling
If you are looking for more information about the City of Bellevue’s involvement with the Hefty® EnergyBag™ program, please click here.