Dow Chemical and Keep America Beautiful’s latest greenwashing scheme, the Hefty Energy Bag program, wants to dupe us into thinking that burning plastic is sustainable. In reality this disposal method will lead to the production of more and more single-use plastic.
To solve the plastic pollution crisis, we need less plastic, not more plastic burning.
We all know that single-use plastics are a big problem: they crowd our landfills, pollute our waterways, and are a contributor to toxic pollution when burned. When it comes to throwaway plastics, the good news is, we don’t need them in the first place! The bad news is, the plastic industry wants to continue producing more and more of the stuff in the coming decades. The American Chemistry Council (representing plastic companies) are quick to suggest incineration as the key to the plastic waste problem (a convenient excuse to keep up production).
Dow Chemical is the largest producer of plastic chemicals in the world, and has a lot of skin in this game. So they’ve come up with a “solution” to “previously non-recycled plastics”: just burn it! In their pilot program of the Hefty Energy Bag in Omaha, NE, they have told citizens that they can “recycle” their single-use plastic by collecting them in orange bags, which are then sent to be burned in a cement kiln that has violated the Clean Air Act.
Now the program has expanded to places like Boise, ID and Cobb County, GA, where plastics are collected and then trucked hundreds of miles away to be turned back to a fossil fuel, which is later burned.
Not only can burning plastic produce some of the most toxic chemicals on earth, like carbon monoxide and dioxin, contributing to the endangerment of the health of communities living nearby, it reinforces the idea that the plastic pollution problem can just be burned away. Plastic is made from fossil fuels, and in order to make sure we have a liveable planet for generations to come, we need to transition to a circular economy where our products can be easily reused or recycled, not produced from scratch using greenhouse gases.
Now is the time to say no to greenwashing stunts like the Hefty Energy Bag, and yes to the real solutions that Americans across the country are working on every day. Cities across the country have committed to a zero waste goal, and are banning problem plastics, like styrofoam, plastic bags, and plastic straws. Reusable alternatives to non-recyclable plastic are making it easier to #breakfreefromplastic.
Join us to demand a just, equitable, non-toxic, zero waste world where the Hefty Energy Bag program would have no plastic to burn. Let’s expose the truth behind the bag!
We believe that our environment should have an abundance of life, not an abundance of plastic. We support reduction, reuse, and recycling, and reject false solutions to plastic pollution like Dow’s Hefty Energy Bag program. The program aims to collect throwaway plastic and packaging to burn, and call it “recycling.” Burning plastic is not recycling, and emits toxic pollution that can harm communities. The Energy Bag program undermines real solutions.
Why Pyrolysis or “Plastic-to-fuel” is a Bad Idea
Pyrolysis enables further overproduction of junk plastic
- In order to operate, facilities need a steady stream of particular plastic in order for them to operate, necessitating further extraction and production of low-quality plastic.
- Unlike recycling, pyrolysis fails to capture the material to feed back into a closed loop system, thereby failing to prevent further extraction.
Pyrolysis makes dirty fossil fuels
- Creating a fuel from fossil fuel-based material and using fossil fuels to power the process cannot be labeled “renewable.”
- In essence, pyrolysis provides a more complicated way to extract and burn fossil fuels that take a brief sojourn as a piece of plastic.
- Burning plastic is equivalent to burning fossil fuels.
Pyrolysis is energy inefficient
- Feedstocks for pyrolysis often require pretreatment processes, which can consume significant quantities energy.
- starved-oxygen environments used in these technologies requires additional input of energy to maintain the process.
Pyrolysis is a bad investment
- While transparent accounting of processes is hard to find, an industry expert estimated pyrolysis costs $8,000 to $11,500 to produce only one kW of energy, twice the cost of photovoltaic solar energy for the same output
- Creating the collecting, sorting, and processing infrastructure to convert these materials to fuel would mean billions of dollars of investment, all to justify the existence of cheap plastic packaging and products.
- A GAIA 2017 publication Waste Gasification & Pyrolysis: High Risk, Low Yield Processes for Waste Management found $2 billion invested in failed projects which closed or were canceled.
Pyrolysis causes harmful emissions
- According to several studies, pyrolysis of plastic causes release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), lead, arsenic, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as those produced from the combustion of flame retardants; and other pollutants subject to regulatory scrutiny.
- Even if those pollutants are successfully captured or neutralized, they must go somewhere, either into the product itself or into byproducts such as fly ash, char, slag and waste water
- According to a 2012 study commissioned by the ACC, “One major problem [with pyrolysis] is the amount of residual waste produced that may call for landfill disposal is about 15 to 20 percent of the overall feedstock used in the process.”
- Plastic-derived fuel produces higher exhaust emissions than diesel, and it has a higher sulphuric content than both gasoline and diesel
- combustion of fuels created from pyrolysis could contain toxins such as dioxin and heavy metals, and in many cases would occur in off-site industries and vehicles that may undergo even less stringent monitoring than incinerators.
Map of Resistance to the Dirty #EnergyBag program
People and organizations all over the country have stood up to Dow Chemical and stated that they will not support the energy bag if it comes to their cities.