An Innovative Solution to Plastic Bag Recycling

Across the globe, we use 5 trillion plastic bags per year. According to the EPA, the U.S. uses 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps annually – and less than one percent of these get recycled. Few US recycling centers or curbside recyclers accept them because bags gum up and contaminate their sorting machines. An environmental scourge, few plastic bags make it to landfills. Most get blown by the wind or end up in our oceans, smothering and killing marine life, birds and other wildlife.

Boston-based entrepreneur David New believes he has the solution.

News’s sleek-looking, innovative Obaggo is the world’s first and only in-home plastic bag and packaging film recycling appliance. It compresses up to 25 plastic bags and/or packaging film at a time, creating disks that are the perfect shape and size for recycling.

New grew up with recycling, His father founded one of the first recycling centers in the US. And although David New isn’t a green fanatic, plastic bag recycling captured his imagination.

“This has been my (Don Quixote) windmill,” he says.

Although not an engineer, in 2009 New got the idea for what would be come the Obaggo while watching Monday night football. He told his friend “what if you melt the bags a little and shape them into a disk?” He wondered “could you recycle them? Would they produce harmful fumes?”

New hired Environmental Health & Engineering and its Harvard-based scientists to test his prototype. After testing around 30 pucks (disks), they learned it had safe levels of off-gassing – much less than a George Foreman grill with its Teflon coating which produces higher heat and significantly more fumes.

While the Obaggo’s lower heat produces an outer hard disk, inside it’s still plastic bags, just compressed. The disks stay encapsulated so they can get through a recycling plant’s sorting machine.

“We don’t want it to melt all the way through,” said New. That would:

  • use more energy
  • off-gas into the room and
  • if you wanted to separate all these out in a recovery process, you couldn’t.

Americans are recycling more and more while much of it waits for a market. Since China closed its doors to our plastic waste, we’re desperately searching for alternatives.

The good news is we’re seeing a huge build-out of plastic recycling infrastructure in the US. And a lot of that is coming from China.

When China shut its doors, a lot of recyclers came here, then bought and began equipping recycling plants. They’re taking this “lower value material” and turning it into recycled resin that can be used to make products like outdoor decking, bottles and other things. And, says New, they’re looking for the material they’ll need for the long-term.

Obaggo is their lifeline.

But Obaggo is also a win for consumers. It solves the problem of having too many plastic bags and helps reduce plastic bag proliferation. The more people use Obaggo, the less need there will be for virgin plastic bags. And consumers can use the variety of plastic bags they collect every week – the gray or white retail store bags, plastic wrappers, plastic mailer envelopes (minus labels), plastic wrap from paper towels and toilet paper, and thin plastic film from packaging.

New also created a free app to go with the Obaggo that lets consumers know where the recycling drop-off points will be.

Obaggo’s components will be manufactured in China. New says there’s no viable alternative. But, he said, the device will be assembled here in the United States, creating new jobs and contributing to local economies. Currently featured as part of a crowdfunding campaign on indigogo, Obaggo’s price ranges from $219 to $249.

The price reflects the skyrocketing shipping costs New faces – currently more than $20,000 per shipping container! He’s hopeful these rates will come down in 2022.

New envisions creating a circular economy for plastic, something that until now has eluded the recycling industry. But, he said, “we want to get (this) product to market first and build on that.”

“We don’t have big money behind us,” said New. “This has been totally bootstrapped.” A successful crowdfunding campaign would help make Obaggo a reality.

New wants to “leave the world a better place for our children.” And the innovative Obaggo will be a sure step toward making that happen. Obaggo is available at https://bit.ly/3uJ9zYi.

One Response

  1. Great tips regrading plastic mailing bags. You provided the best information which helps us a lot. Thanks for sharing the wonderful information.

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