The EPA’s Solid Waste Infrastructure For Recycling grant program is sending DNREC $531,690 from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. DNREC Recycling Program Manager Adam Schlachter says their main issues are contamination and communication – and the money will fund various research projects focused on reducing waste and expanding recycling, like what to do when reusable shopping bags reach the end of their life.
“The predominant material being used to make those bags is a non-woven polypropylene material, which has sort of been shown to be one of the more sustainable materials to use from an energy use and resource use perspective,” Schlachter says. “So, how can we enhance that? How can we take that to the next step and come up with circularity around the reusable bag. Because after you use it for three or four or five years or whatever you’re going to use it for, right now it just goes into the landfill.”
Other planned research includes looking at food waste and why it becomes waste in the first place. Schlachter says identifying sources and redirecting that waste, like sending food from a restaurant that’s normally thrown out at the end of the night to a shelter instead. “It’s a pretty big portion of our waste stream,” Schlachter says. “It is the thing that if it goes into the landfill, it leads to leachate production, it leads to gas production in those facilities, which they are designed to handle, that is something we’re managing, but at the end of the day, if we don’t make it, we don’t have to manage it.”