Michigan-based Dow Chemical Company, a producer of plastic and polystyrene foam materials, has launched a new progressive concept that hopes to take consumers beyond the commonly known “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” campaign. Dow hopes that by adding a fourth “R” of “Recover” to the concept consumers will not view plastic or polystyrene packaging as waste, but as just another step in the new “4R” approach. Specifically targeted in this effort is polystyrene foam, which is commonly referred to as Styrofoam® and is a registered trademark of Dow.
The idea for this program is to turn items that Dow deems “end-of-life” products into a renewed source of energy. By doing this, the consumer should not “view the packaging as waste…but know when they’re done with it, the packaging will be reused,” comments Jeff Wooster, Dow’s global sustainability leader. The idea is to change the perception that foam waste, or any disregarded item, at the end of its life is not truly waste, but a new form of a reusable energy source. Dow has named this process the “recycle-to-energy” method.
This concept is not based on merely an idea, but Dow’s own experience with the recycle-to-energy method. In 2010, trials were conducted in North America that Dow claims were successful in showing that discarded plastic can generate energy. While this was a pilot test, the outcome of trial, which was conducted at Dow’s Michigan operations, showed that 96% of available energy was recovered after thermally recycling 578 pounds of waste. The amount of energy recovered was equal to 11.1 million BTUs of natural gas, or the equivalent to about 88 gallons of motor gasoline.
One such company implementing similar techniques to Dow is Dart Container Corporation. Much like the campaign efforts Dow has described, Dart has invested in projects that utilize this waste-to-energy method. For example, Dart’s Leola, Pennsylvania plant uses methane gas produced from nearby landfills to fulfill a portion of its energy needs. Working with Granger Energy Services, Dart pipes in landfill-produced gas through 24 miles of pipeline, and provides enough energy to power several different assets within the facility. Beyond this effort to use waste as an alternative energy source, Dart also continues to reaffirm the need to educate consumers on the importance of recycling polystyrene foam through consumer recycling programs.
Source: Plastics Today