This Is Plastics: Recycling 101: Energy Recovery Technologies

Plastics 101

Recycling 101: Energy Recovery Technologies

Energy recovery is how companies convert post-use, non-recyclable plastics into a range of useful products such as fuels and electricity.


Top 3 Takeaways

As members of the plastics industry, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is an expression we live by. Most people have a basic understanding of how they can apply the three Rs at home, but along with reducing, reusing and recycling throughout the supply chain, the plastics industry is adding another R to the mix: recover.

See how energy recovery is turning landfill-bound plastics and waste into a reliable and renewable energy source.


There are some items we simply can’t recycle at this time.

These items are typically sent to landfills—but energy recovery technologies are changing that. It’s complementing recycling to add a new dimension to the solid waste management toolkit.

It all starts with waste. Municipal solid waste is an underutilized resource of energy that can boost energy security, reduce landfill waste and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Energy recovery is a powerful process that has the potential to change the way we fuel the world. If all the non-recycled plastics in municipal solid waste were converted to oil instead of landfilled, these plastics could power up to nine million cars per year.

Hefty® Energy Bag™ Program

To keep non-recycled plastic items from going to landfills, Hefty® launched an EnergyBag™ program. Residents put items such as candy wrappers and empty juice pouches into special orange bags, and then the orange bags are taken to energy conversion facilities. The program has expanded to multiple cities across Nebraska, Idaho and Georgia. It’s estimated that the program has diverted more than 24 tons of plastics from landfills, the equivalent of approximately 19 million snack-sized chip bags or 117 barrels of diesel fuel.

Illustration of an energy plant

There are several types of energy recovery that are being explored today:

Energy Recovery in Action

The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, was the first in the world to implement a municipal waste-to-biofuels energy recovery program. The city, province and private company Enerkem collaborated to build a Waste to Biofuels and Chemicals Facility. It’s estimated that the facility is helping to divert 90% of the city's waste from landfills.

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