Omaha Sustainability Firm Offers Critique of Omaha's Hefty EnergyBag Program
Verdis Group FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1516 Cuming St. September 22, 2017
Omaha, NE 68102
Local Sustainability Firm Offers Critique of Hefty EnergyBag Program
With Concern over Emissions, Verdis Group Gives Cautionary Support, Urges Further Development
Omaha, NE: The Hefty EnergyBag program generates unhealthy emissions that diminish air quality, but as the program grows and switches techniques, it could become a valuable benefit to the environment for Omaha residents and for other cities nationwide. This is the conclusion of Verdis Group, a local sustainability consultancy, who today released a white paper on the subject, which can be found at verdisgroup.com/energybags.
The EnergyBag program is a partnership between Dow Chemical, Firstar Fiber, Keep America Beautiful, and other major organizations that collects primarily soft plastics to keep them from going into the landfill. The Omaha area was selected for an early version of the program, which began in 2016. Residents are invited to purchase orange bags and to fill them with soft plastic waste—largely plastic bags from food packaging that are not traditionally recyclable. Residents place the orange bags in their regular curbside recycling containers where they are picked up weekly.
The soft plastics are ultimately sent to a facility in Sugar Creek, Missouri, where they are incinerated and used as fuel to power a cement kiln. This process is known as a “waste to energy” (WTE) technique. WTE creates harmful pollutants from the incineration of plastic material. In addition, WTE does not contribute to Zero Waste strategies. Zero Waste is a designation that refers to an entity diverting 90% of its waste from the landfill. According to Zero Waste Alliance guidelines, incineration cannot be counted as a Zero Waste strategy. In other words, collecting soft plastics for incineration is equivalent to—if not more harmful than—landfilling them.
In addition, Verdis Group found that the Sugar Creek cement kiln has a string of EPA air quality violations, which are not uncommon in the cement kiln industry but are concerning nevertheless.
For all these environmental red flags, however, Verdis ultimately offers support for the program. Dow Chemical’s ultimate goal is to move away from incineration and into chemical recycling of the plastics likely through a process called pyrolysis. In order to implement this switch, Dow indicated they need to have a large and steady enough stream of materials to make it worthwhile. The Hefty EnergyBag program is the start to generating such a stream.
“After thoroughly researching the issue, we offer our cautious support of the program with the caveat that we will be impatiently awaiting the transition to chemical recycling of the plastic materials in order to protect our environment,” said Craig Moody, Managing Principal of Verdis Group.
Moody calls on Dow to more explicitly state their plans for transitioning to chemical recycling, and to refrain from describing the program as it now operates as an “innovative recycling program.” Without progressive movement towards the reusable option, Verdis promises to be quick to remove its support.
For more information, please see verdisgroup.com/energybags/.
About Verdis Group: Founded in 2009, Verdis Group is a sustainability consulting company that helps organizations identify and implement sustainable solutions. Their purpose is to create a thriving and resilient world.
CONTACT: Craig Moody, Managing Principal, 402-681-9458, [email protected]