In the Fight Against Plastic Waste, Cooperation is Key

Public-private partnerships between all levels of government and plastics industry leaders are critical to reducing plastic pollution and co-managing the entire lifecycle of plastics. The Hefty®EnergyBag® program is a key example of a progressive, joint effort aimed at collecting hard-to-recycle plastics and using them as – or converting them into – valued resources.

Growing up, you’ve certainly heard, “more hands makes for light work” or “two heads are better than one.” What these old adages really mean is that partnership is important—and to end plastic waste there’s no partnership more important than one between government and industry.

Canadian governments, even at the municipal level, have a strong track record of partnering with key industry leaders on zero waste plastic initiatives, and it is important this trend continues.

The Hefty®EnergyBag® Program has been a promising solution for many North American communities, including London, Ontario where a pilot project was launched in October 2019.

To fund the endeavour in London (valued at $450,000), Dow contributed $135,000; the former Canadian Plastics Industry Association (now the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada’s Plastic Division) contributed $75,000; the City of London contributed $50,000; the Continuous Improvement Fund contributed $97,000 with other financial contributions from PAC Next, Nestlé Canada and Kwik Lok.

The process could not be easier for everyday consumers, who want to do their part to create a circular economy. It offers more than 13,000 households in London (with more to be added) with a distinguishable orange bag to discard their clean and dry plastics, which are not normally accepted in the recycling bin/carts, such as plastic wrap, flexible plastic reusable pouches, foam takeout containers, plastic utensils, and snack food bags.

How does it work? Once the hard-to-recycle plastics are collected, project partner’s funding and in-kind services allows for the use of existing waste management infrastructure to seamlessly collect and repurpose these plastics into valuable resources. At the City of London-owned materials recovery facility (MRF), crews hand-pick the easily distinguishable orange bags before they enter sorting equipment. As a result, the Hefty® EnergyBag® program is complementary to London’s recycling program, and the plastic goods are reaching the right places and repurposed accordingly.

London’s single-family households generate about 18 kilograms (40 pounds) of the types of plastic resources accepted in this program each year, and it’s estimated that these orange bags could capture 5 to 8 kilograms (11 to 18 pounds) of that material. Ultimately, the City of London hopes to reach its goal of 60 percent waste diversion by the end of 2022, which includes advancements in plastic diversion. Municipal Council has also directed staff to examine opportunities to have zero residential plastics go to landfill as part of a long-term resource recovery strategy.

The success from these types of partnerships has become a significant demonstration of industry’s ability to help divert resources from landfills, increase efficiency at recycling facilities, improve the quality of other recycled materials, and, most importantly, make things easier for consumers.

This story of collaboration is just the tip of the iceberg of programs that will move Canada toward a zero plastic waste economy.