How to Divert Plastics from Landfills

Infographic of the life-cycle flow of recycled plastics and of non-recyclable plastics into energy

Most of us know the three “R’s” when it comes to reducing waste and protecting our environment: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  But did you know that there is a fourth “R”?  Recovery. Energy recovery is the high-tech process by which waste is converted into alternative energy.

Currently, 86 energy recovery facilities across the U.S. process about 97,000 tons of materials per day, powering homes and businesses. Using plastic waste to generate energy helps address many of our biggest challenges: energy independence, waste diversion, and climate change.

Did you know …

  • The United States currently processes 13 percent of its solid waste through energy recovery—enough energy to power homes in five states or the equivalent of 28.6 billion barrels of crude oil.
  • Energy recovery facilities mean a lot less waste goes to landfills. Energy recovery facilities can reduce by 90 percent the volume of waste that goes to landfill.
  • Modern energy recovery facilities are greener than ever. Today’s technology allows modern energy recovery facilities to process waste with cleaner emissions than some conventional fuels processed in most power plants. In fact, EPA estimates that energy recovery technology in use today helps prevent the release of 33 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
  • Plastics help energy recovery technology for municipal solid waste work better. Because plastics have a higher energy value than other components of municipal waste, they help increase the efficiency of the energy recovery process and create less ash for disposal.

Sound complicated? It’s not. Check out this graphic that explains both the Recycling and Energy Recovery process.

Further Reading: Plastic recycling