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I am familiar with large orange bags. For the better part of two decades I have helped with our Knights of Columbus highway cleanup. The Nebraska Department of Roads provides sturdy, 50 gallon plus trash bags to us and other volunteer crews. Once the task is complete we leave them like discarded pumpkins on the shoulder of Highway 2 north of town.

Over the past few months at the the Keep Alliance Beautiful Recycling Center we have been stuffing another type of large orange bag -- Hefty Energy bags -- with plastics that would not otherwise be accepted at our local facility.

The Dow Chemical Co. introduced its Hefty Energy Bag Program in Omaha in 2016. Lincoln and other cities throughout the United States have also embraced the program in the past four years to remove more plastic from their municipal waste streams.

Like other materials brought to or collected by KAB, Energy Bag items should be clean and dry. Items for bags include:

>Small styrofoam containers (such as cups). Large pieces are not accepted by our contractor and will be thrown away.

>Candy wrappers

>Plastic utensils

>Plastic hangers

>Plastic shopping bags

>Bubble wrap

>Plastic pet food bags

>Plastic food packaging

>Plastic pouches

The Hefty website says the baled bags are “. . . converted into useful resources like energy, fuel and durable building materials.” Some of these plastics are not otherwise accepted because there is no current end market. The company also points out that in the U.S. people create 254 million tons of trash annually with half going into landfills.

At KAB we separate the items from trailer bins and curbside bags and fill the expansive orange bags, which are then baled and picked up by our recycling contractor.

Several curbside customers have been including bags of these items in their regular pickup.

KAB shifted this past year to using the actual Hefty bags instead of sending the loose items to Kimball/Ogallala in boxes.

If collecting Hefty items in a bag it is easier for us to sort if you mark it as such.

The amount of energy bag eligible items gleaned from our process at the recycling center shows many local residents are aware of the program. I hope more people will begin to set aside these other plastics for us. Help feed the bags!

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