Dow Introduces Sustainability Project to Reuse Hard-to-Recycle Plastic Waste

Originally published at Dow ranked No. 19 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


Reynolds Consumer Products and Dow announced the Hefty EnergyBag program is collaborating with ByFusion on a pilot project to introduce a new creative use for hard-to-recycle plastic items collected by local participants in the Greater Boise area. The ByFusion pilot project demonstrates how communities of all sizes can innovate solutions to environmental challenges and put their hard-to-recycle plastic waste to good use by converting it into a building material that supports their community. The current project leverages public-private partnerships and will divert up to 72 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics from the Ada County Hidden Hollow landfill, which helps decrease its environmental impact.

The ByFusion pilot project will convert the hard-to-recycle plastics collected by the Hefty EnergyBag program into ByBlocks, the first-ever construction-grade block made from collected, previously unrecycled plastics. ByFusion’s proprietary, no-emission process creates ByBlocks made entirely from plastic waste, containing no chemicals, additives or fillers. The fusion process does not require traditional sorting, cleaning or pre-processing. The ByBlocks can build a range of structures, including benches, bus shelters and much more. The first ByBlock application planned for the Greater Boise area is a large bench in Manitou Park, which was installed on February 15th. Additional projects are planned over the next few months, including a park bench in Garden City and other benches and kiosks within the area.

“I was excited when I learned about the ByFusion pilot project in the Greater Boise area because not only is it a beneficial way to use hard-to-recycle plastics, but the plastic collected comes from local residents who use the Hefty EnergyBag program,” said Jennifer Ellis, Greater Boise community sustainability advocate. “From material collection to a finished post-consumer recycled-content product, this really makes an impact on the distance the material has traveled in the past and the endgame for the material. I appreciate that the Hefty EnergyBag program encourages people to find alternatives to simply throwing that plastic away. While the first priority should always be to refuse, reduce or reuse unnecessary plastic waste, having the program available to collect the hard-to-recycle plastics is a welcomed diversion from landfill. It’s because of us, the citizens of these communities, that this project is even possible. I am looking forward to visiting Manitou Park, enjoying the park bench and talking about it with my fellow Boiseans.”

The Hefty EnergyBag team is also taking the opportunity to determine the environmental impact of the ByFusion pilot project from beginning to end, through a life cycle assessment. Having a better understanding of the full global warming impact of the material used in ByBlocks in comparison to other usages of the collected materials will inform how the Hefty EnergyBag program and ByFusion may work together in the future.

“We are always exploring new end-usage opportunities for the hard-to-recycle plastic collected by the Hefty EnergyBag program, including the potential to expand beyond plastic as an energy source, which is why participating in the ByFusion pilot project is such an exciting moment for the Hefty EnergyBag program,” said Lisa Burns, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Reynolds Consumer Products. “Seeing the transformation of these challenging plastics into this impressive park bench is a testament to what is possible and what the future could hold for the Hefty EnergyBag program.”

“ByFusion is excited to be part of this collaboration with Dow and the Hefty EnergyBag program that collectively empowers the residents of the Greater Boise area to take control of their plastic waste and use it to support their growing, environmentally-conscious community,” said Heidi Kujawa, CEO, ByFusion. “We are confident that the area’s implementation of ByBlocks will show other cities how they can repurpose their plastic waste and transform it into an alternative building material that helps support their infrastructure needs, instead of being an ongoing burden.”

The ByFusion pilot project was developed in collaboration with Dow’s Business Impact Fund, which is a competitive grant program. The Hefty EnergyBag program, which is conducted in partnership with Dow, was already in place when the ByFusion pilot project launched. The program was first adopted by the City of Boise in 2018, and other local communities within Ada County soon followed.

“Since the Business Impact Fund was introduced in 2016, it has awarded over $5 million for 35 projects around the globe. Every project, including the ByFusion pilot, has the potential to have a tremendous and positive impact on the local community,” said Julie Zaniewski, North American Sustainability Director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics. “Dow and the Hefty EnergyBag team, along with ByFusion and the Greater Boise area, are committed to this project as an innovative way of reducing the amount of plastic that is otherwise sent to landfills. It is our collective hope that other cities and communities, beyond Boise, will be inspired to think creatively about new uses for this valuable material.”

Developed with Dow and other program supporters, the Hefty EnergyBag program is a hard-to-recycle plastics collection program that offers eligible residents in the Greater Boise area a convenient way to divert hard-to-recycle plastics from the landfill (learn more about the program here and check here for a list of the participating communities in Idaho). The Hefty EnergyBag orange bags can be purchased at select local retailers or online. Once the orange bag is filled with hard-to-recycle plastics, residents simply place it in the same bin or cart as their traditional recycling. The regular recycling truck takes the orange bags along with normal, loose recyclables, and the recycling center then separates these bags from other materials and sends them to facilities that use the hard-to-recycle plastics as valuable resources.

Through April 2021, the Hefty EnergyBag program has diverted over 1,600 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics from landfills and is currently active in communities in Nebraska and Idaho, along with counties in the metro Atlanta, Georgia area.