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New program makes plastic bag recycling possible in Orem

Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 12, 2023

OREM, Utah — The city of Orem is partnering with Waste Management in a new pilot program to recycle a specific kind of plastic.

“I used to try gather up all my plastic bags and take them into the store,” explained resident Angela Draper. “They just gather up in the garage and then I throw them away.”

Now there’s a new way for residents to ditch certain kinds of plastic in a first-of-its kind venture — by recycling them.

Before the program, it was either throw the plastic bags in the trash to end up in a landfill, or give them back to a grocery store. Now, they can go in the recycling bin with other items like paper, cardboard and cans.

“The grocery bags, the trash bags, packaging, the plastic envelopes that you get from Amazon, anything that’s of that plastic film, can just go loose into the bin, don’t bag it, keep everything loose, put it in a bin,” explained Pete Wolfley with the city.

Waste Management and Orem officials are working on the 90-day pilot recycling program with these plastics.

“There hasn’t been technology to possibly be able to do this. Now, it’s developed, and so Waste Management wants to be on the cutting edge and we’re seeing if we can make this a viable thing that happens all over the place,” explained Dennis Schofield, district manager of a Waste Management facility in Salt Lake City.

“I think it’s great," added Draper. "As much as we can keep out of the garbage and keep out of the landfills, I think is much better."

The recycling contents from Orem go to a facility in Salt Lake City where the recycling process can separate the plastic bags from the rest.

“It’s a robotic type machine that identifies the plastic, the different types of plastic, and then it extracts them from the stream on the conveyor belt,” said Schofield.

The program runs through November 15 and the city says it has been well received.

“The public has really embraced it,” said Wolfley. “They have their fingers crossed because it is a pilot program, they hope that it carries on.”

Wolfley adds that the city was excited to be chosen as a partner.

Sarah Bateman, founding member, of the city of Orem Natural Resources Stewardship Committee, has been working with sustainability for a while and is excited about the potential of the project.

“It’s encouraging to see that conversation being had among a larger group of people, instead of just these niche populations," she said. "But this is more of a conversation that we’re all now having together and how can we work together to preserve the land we love so much.”