The destination for Boise’s EnergyBags has continued to shift in recent months. Due to additional delays in equipment upgrades, Renewlogy, the Salt Lake City-based company that originally processed Boise’s EnergyBags, will remain unable to process the city’s plastics until late summer/early fall. In the interim, Reynolds Consumer Products in partnership with Dow Chemical Company, who administer the program and find markets for the plastics, identified several backup options, the most reliable of which has been sending the EnergyBags to cement manufacturing facilities. Because of the new delay in Renewlogy’s processing, the city is working with Reynolds to store the EnergyBags until a life-cycle analysis of the environmental implications of using plastics as a fuel in cement production can be completed.
In 2019, Reynolds and Dow informed the city that Renewlogy would be temporarily unable to accept materials until they replaced and upgraded their processing equipment to better handle the mix of plastics present in the EnergyBags. Renewlogy was originally projected to resume operations in January of 2020. Reynolds and Dow have been looking for additional test markets to utilize as back-up options for Renewlogy. Test loads of plastic were sent to companies in Canada, California, Louisiana, Texas, and Missouri to explore additional pyrolysis options (similar to Renewlogy’s process), as well as options to make plastic pallets, plastic park benches, and plastic railroad ties from the city’s EnergyBag material. Due to capacity limits with these operations and the contamination levels in the EnergyBags, currently the only market able to accept the material on an ongoing basis is the cement manufacturing industry.
The city is currently awaiting a life-cycle analysis of the environmental factors involved with using plastics in the cement manufacturing industry. While the city is waiting for the analysis, EnergyBags will not be used for this process. Once the environmental analysis has been completed, the city will make a policy decision regarding the program and potential destinations and markets for Boise’s EnergyBags.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generally classifies plastics utilized in the cement industry and plastics utilized in pyrolysis under the same category of “energy recovery”. Though this change in markets for the EnergyBags is still an acceptable form of waste management per the EPA, the city is committed to understanding the specific environmental impact of this change.
With the ongoing changes to the EnergyBag market and the recycling markets at large, the City of Boise is working on ways to reduce the amount of waste our community creates from the start. This April, the city will be launching a new Reduce and Reuse program focused on decreasing the city government’s waste and developing initiatives, policies, and community partnerships to help citizens and businesses reduce the waste they create and conserve our finite natural resources.
Residents who are currently participating in the program will not see any impacts or interruptions in the program. Participating residents can review the materials accepted in the EnergyBags here.