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Transforming Plastic Waste into Reusable Bags

Plant Chicago is guiding Just Ice, Inc. through a pilot project to divert over 125 pounds/week of plastic from the landfill. Just Ice, Inc. owner and CEO, Rosanna Lloyd, has been working hard to divert High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) bags from the landfill. Starting in October, Just Ice will begin collecting  HDPE bags from their operations and Plant Chicago will divert a portion of these bags by repurposing them into free, reusable shopping bags for our year-round market at The Plant. Just Ice will take the remaining material to a local recycler that accepts HDPE bags. Since the City of Chicago doesn’t offer recycling for plastic bags, this is a huge step for small businesses like Just Ice!

More details on this project:

Rosanna and the Just Ice Inc. team have had an ongoing issue creating plastic waste, especially from the HDPE liners they use as  for making ice. At such a fast rate, Just Ice goes through about 145 pounds of it per week. For a better idea of what we’re talking about, you can see Rosanna holding the edge of the plastic, which is necessary for lining some of their machines (pictured below).

HDPE (also known as #2 plastic) is, in theory, “infinitely” recyclable but in practice much of it does not get recycled.

The City of Chicago doesn’t have a municipal program to recycle HDPE in bag form, which is a barrier for small businesses like Just Ice that are trying to engage in circular business practices.

Just Ice has been looking for alternatives to dumping this plastic into the landfill by either repurposing it or recycling it. Plant Chicago recognized the material’s value, and hopped on the opportunity to collaborate with our partners. Since Plant Chicago is already pledging to eliminate single-use plastic from our farmers markets, K-12 programs, workshops, and other events, this was the perfect opportunity for a collaboration to divert even more plastic from landfills, incinerators, and the environment.

After a few attempts at a functional design, Rosanna came up with an efficient way to turn these plastic liners into reusable bags. After some cutting, folding, and sealing, each of the liners will be repurposed into four bags. These bags are intended for use at Plant Chicago farmers markets, serving as a great alternative to a single-use plastic bag.

If you are interested in making your own reusable bag (pictured below) at our farmers market on October 6th, take a look around for our table. We can’t wait to see you there, and can’t wait to share more of these opportunities with you in the future!


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