London, Ont., launches project to collect hard-to-recycle plastics

Photo credit: Hefty Brands

People in some parts of London, Ont., will soon be able to put hard-to-recycle single-use materials out with their regular recycling instead of throwing them in the trash. 

The city is testing the Hefty EnergyBag program in nine neighbourhoods, covering about 13,000 households. The pilot project will allow residents to recycle a long list of products that are not covered by the regular blue box program, including candy wrappers, foam containers, plastic straws and stirrers, food bags, and more. 

“They’re primarily your soft plastics, like flexible plastic packaging, like a juice pouch or the bag around your loaf of bread,” Jay Stanford, the city’s director of solid waste, told the CBC. “These are items that currently end up in the garbage.”

To start, those participating in the pilot will be given 20 orange bags in which to collect the material, with more available for purchase. When full, the bags can be left out for collection along with regular recycling. The program was created by Reynolds Consumer Products, the company that makes Hefty brand garbage bags (headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., and Lake Forest, Ill.). Similar versions of the program have been running in various U.S. cities and towns for the past five years, but this is the first time it has been brought to a Canadian community. 

The material that is collected will be recycled into plastic composites that can be in construction materials, plastic lumber and outdoor furniture — even into aggregates that can be incorporated in concrete blocks. It can also be chemically converted into transportation fuels or chemical feedstocks to create new materials. 

“What we’re doing with industry is working on a really good recovery system that will turn a material that was once considered a waste item into a resource item,” said Stanford. “Traditionally, these items would go in the garbage, and no one has taken a good run at ‘How can we turn them into a valuable item?’ That’s why this pilot project is so important.”