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Case Study: Meijer brings recycled plastics full circle

Paving the way with 12,500 pounds of plastic collected from drop off recycling bins

Have you ever wondered what happens to the plastic bags that are deposited in the handy collection bins inside the front entrances of your local retail store? Many of them are taken to special recycling facilities to produce post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic, which can be used in a variety of ways – including parking lots and roads to bring the bags full circle.

In a recent pilot collaboration with Meijer, Dow leveraged a paving technique using the PCR to create a more durable parking lot for the retailer’s Holland, Mich. supercenter. This technology is called recycled polymer modified asphalt (RPMA).

“Meijer operates under the philosophy that to be a good company, we must be a good neighbor,” said Rick Keyes, President and CEO of Meijer. “We are committed to lessening our impact on the environment and are pleased to partner with our customers and Dow in the largest in-state project of this kind to better demonstrate our commitment to a circular economy through recycling and reusing plastic.”

Paving the Meijer parking lot with RPMA

The parking lot is a three-phase project that used approximately 12,500 pounds of PCR, which is the equivalent weight of 944,000 plastic grocery bags. All of the recycled plastic used for this pilot project was deposited by Meijer customers through the retailer’s in-store plastic film recycling program.

In 2014, Meijer placed a collection bin inside the front entrances of each of its stores for customers to deposit clean, dry plastic bags and films, including single-use bread, dry cleaning, produce and water softener bags.

“Lessening our impact on the environment through increased recycling efforts is an issue that’s important to us, which is why we believe this pilot project is just one of the ways we can bring our current recycling efforts full circle while improving our customer shopping experience,” said Vik Srinivasan, Senior Vice President of Properties and Real Estate at Meijer.

Creating the PCR and paving the parking lot takes a lot of players. PADNOS, a materials recycler, converts the plastics Meijer collects into usable PCR content. K-Tech Specialty Coatings, a modified asphalt supplier, then modifies the base asphalt binder, adding the PCR with ELVALOY™ Reactive Elastomeric Terpolymers (RET) to the asphalt. Finally, construction contractor Rieth-Riley produces the final hot-mix asphalt and paves the Meijer parking lot.

Plastic bags and ELVALOY™ RET

Powered by ELVALOY™ RET, RPMA roads and parking lots are more durable, versus unmodified asphalt. A third-party study on additives from the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) at Auburn University has also shown similar or better performance for asphalt modified with ELVALOY™ RET and polyethylene-rich recycled plastic vs other modifiers. Before RPMA, polymer modified asphalt (PMA) was used for approximately 150 years to make better pavement. These PMA pavements are enhanced with ELVALOY™ RET products in the last 30 years and yield longer service life and lower life cycle costs compared to conventional, neat asphalt. The RPMA pavement is achieved by incorporating PCR compatibilized with ELVALOY™ RET.

“This is an exciting collaboration from start to finish and a perfect example of how the plastics used to keep food safe and fresh, like bread bags, can have a new life as infrastructure like a parking lot,” said CJ DuBois, North American Paving Application Development Leader, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics.

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The pilot parking lot project with Meijer isn’t a first for Dow. The company began working on these projects in Indonesia in 2017, partnering with the Indonesian government towards its goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean by 70 percent by 2025. In August 2021, Dow completed an RPMA at The University of Missouri. Prior to this, Dow completed two RPMA roads at Dow’s Freeport, Texas site, two roads at the Dow Sabine River Operations where ELVALOY™ RET is produced and four public roads and two parking lots in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan – totaling approximately 14,000 pounds or more than 1 million plastic bags. These RPMA projects are just a sample of efforts helping Dow reach its 2030 target to enable 1 million metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships.

“The Meijer parking lot and the countless other RPMA paving projects using ELVALOY™ RET are examples of how we’re continually creating new technologies and initiatives to transform used plastics into functional and valuable solutions,” said DuBois.

Contact us to learn more about RPMA or ELVALOY™ RET.

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