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Omaha at forefront of cutting edge recycling program

Omaha is the first city in America to adopt a revolutionary new recycling initiative.The Hefty "Energy Bag" Pr...

Posted: Apr 4, 2018 9:59 PM
Updated: Apr 4, 2018 9:59 PM

Omaha is the first city in America to adopt a revolutionary new recycling initiative.

The Hefty "Energy Bag" Program is aimed at recycling specific plastic materials that can otherwise, slow down and hamper regular recycling efforts.

Joe Wieland recycles regularly stopping by the 26th and Douglas location Tuesday afternoon.

"I try to be pretty constant with it," he said. "We recycle whatever we can around the house, whatever the city will pick up and glass I bring down here."

Those recyclables come to First Star Recycling at 103rd and I Street where different recyclables are sorted.

But Dale Gubbels, President and CEO at First Star, said there's a new segment of recyclable that is gaining momentum.

"Plastics that we cannot find markets for in the traditional sense."

Gubbels said all plastics are not the same.

"Plastic comes in a variety of forms and resin types, different hydro carbon chains and they aren't always compatible," he said.

Plastics that are made into straws, dessert cups and plastic silverware can be recycled but Gubbels said they need to be separated before coming here.

"Individually, they end up contaminating the rest of the recyclables and I'm talking about things like straws, which clog up our system," he said.

That's why these orange bags are so important.

We simply put plastics like straws, candy wrappers and chip bags in an orange energy bag so they can easily be separated, bundled and sent for recovery.

"[The orange bags] allows us to pull out these materials en masse and then we're actually bailing the entire mess together and sending it off to technologies that can recover the energy in an efficient way," Guebbels said.

They provide energy for cement products and can be reduced back to oil, which is where plastic comes from, along with the manufacture of fence posts and landscape timbers.

Since the Hefty Energy Bag Program began in 2016, 14 tons of materials have been recycled and kept out of the landfill.

It's a start on reducing waste in every household.

"I think it's a great idea," Joe Wieland said. "If it's good for the environment, it's good for the city and I'd be fully supportive of something like that."

Right now, area Hy-Vee stores carry the orange Hefty "Energy Bags."

Other stores are expected to come on-line, soon.

Bellevue plans to be part of the program, soon as well as Boise, Idaho.

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