WM and Dow have announced the launch of a bold new collaboration to improve residential recycling for hard-to-recycle plastic films by allowing consumers in select markets to recycle these materials directly in their curbside recycling. According to The Recycling Partnership, currently, only 1.9% of U.S. households1 have access to curbside plastic film recycling, which is the plastic material with the lowest overall recycling rate. Once operating at full capacity, this program is expected to help WM divert more than 120,000 metric tons (MT) of plastics film from landfills annually.
This effort combines WM’s broad reach as a comprehensive environmental solutions provider with Dow’s leadership in material science to build new infrastructure that is intended to help close existing recycling gaps, driving a more circular value chain in the U.S. for plastic materials. The initiative has kicked off with an initial pilot program in the Chicago-area community of Hickory Hills, Ill., reaching approximately 3,500 households, with more cities to follow across the country. Consumers in the program’s pilot cities will be able to recycle film plastics like bread bags, cling wrap, and dry-cleaning bags directly in their curbside recycling.
“By providing residential customers with a simple, curbside option for recycling plastic films, we will not only help our customers more easily manage their used plastic film products, but also meet the rising demand for recycled content products,” said Jim Fish, president and CEO, WM. “We recognize that to continue to meet and exceed our sustainability goals, we need to continue to expand our circularity solutions. We see tremendous untapped potential to recycle and reuse plastic film, which many of our residential customers struggle to properly dispose.”
WM expects to invest over $800 million through 2025 to improve and enhance recycling infrastructure, including specialized technology that will allow WM to sort plastic films. WM will lead the collection and processing for the film recycling pilots and continue to identify film recycling opportunities across the U.S. By 2025, film recycling through WM is expected to reach 8% of U.S. households.
Dow is supporting this initiative by incorporating recycled content into its product solutions, in line with the company’s ambitious, updated Transform the Waste sustainability commitment to deliver 3 million metric tons of circular and renewable solutions by 2030. Through material science expertise, offtakes, cart donations, technology and circular investments, Dow is working to increase recovery rates and drive towards a circular ecosystem for hard-to-recycle plastics.
“Enabling a circular economy requires broad stakeholder collaboration, innovation and investment throughout the value chain to continue to more rapidly develop and advance solutions at scale,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and CEO. “Through our collaboration with WM, we’re determined to launch new programs that grow recycling infrastructure and access nationwide, creating a more comprehensive system where films and flexible plastics form a key pillar of our circular product offerings.”
“As an elected official and resident of Hickory Hills I am honored the City of Hickory Hills was chosen to participate in this new plastic film recycling program. The City of Hickory Hills is extremely excited to be a part of this latest recycling initiative,” said D’Lorah Catizone, City Clerk for the City of Hickory Hills. “I think the things everyone can do are small things, but if they are done, it will eventually help the environment. I think recycling is the biggest effort we are making.”
This collaboration builds on WM and Dow’s continued support for a more expansive recycling system across the country. Earlier this year, WM announced its agreement to acquire a controlling interest in Avangard Innovative’s U.S. post-consumer resin (or “PCR”) business, creating Natura PCR – an independent company expected to scale and grow recycling capacity to produce an estimated 400 million pounds per year of PCR pellets in five years. Natura PCR is expected to provide circular solutions for films and clear plastic wrap used commercially, such as plastic stretch wrap for pallets, furniture film, grocery bags and potentially shrink wrap around food and beverage containers. Dow will continue to grow its REVOLOOP™ PCR product line while also increasing circular ecosystem projects with WM. Together, these projects will increase the recycling rate of plastics and create sustainable solutions in packaging, infrastructure and consumer applications.