With Super Bowl LVII less than a month away, the City of Phoenix said it stands ready to achieve its goal of hosting the “greenest Super Bowl events yet.” By diverting 92% of waste produced at downtown Super Bowl activities away from the landfill, Phoenix would meet (and exceed) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition of a Zero Waste event.
Recycling is one of the main waste diversion methods. While the Public Works Department collects and sorts recyclables in Phoenix, partners like Direct Pack, Inc. (DPI) take it from there, bringing plastics all the way through the remanufacturing process to become new food packaging items once again.
“We don’t want recycling to be a mystery,” said Phoenix Public Works Director Joe Giudice. “We want every Phoenix resident to know what happens to the things they recycle—not only how they get sorted in our Materials Recovery Facility, but also where they go after that, how our partners like Direct Pack process them, and what the recycled items turn into. A transparent process can help people feel more fulfilled as they put items in their blue bins.”
Each year, Phoenix processes recyclables from 400,000 households, including some material from other valley cities. All those items are taken to the Materials Recovery Center (MRF) where workers pre-sort items by pulling out things that shouldn’t be there (plastic bags and cords, for example). Disc screens then sort flat items (paper and cardboard) away from three-dimensional items like cans, bottles, and plastic containers. From there, plastics are further separated from aluminum and glass.
Of the seven different kinds of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate (PET)—a clear, lightweight plastic commonly used for beverage bottles and berry, bakery, and sandwich packaging—is the most recycled worldwide.
“PET plastics are some of the most easily recycled plastics out there,” said Phoenix Public Works Deputy Director Eduardo Rodriguez. “That’s why it’s so important to get things like water bottles and plastic containers in the recycle bin. They can be recycled over and over again in many different forms.”
That’s where DPI comes in. In 2022 alone, DPI purchased 8.1 million pounds of PET from the City of Phoenix and took it to Direct Pack Recycling in Mexicali, Mexico. There the material is sorted, chopped, and washed multiple times before it is put back into the production of new food packaging again.
“With our newest recycling and recovery facility located only a few hours away from Phoenix, we can trace and recover all PET plastic collected in the area with a very low carbon footprint,” said Craig Snedden, president of DPI. “This transparency is important, so you know that what you put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled and reused. The packaging you put in the recycling bin today can come back as your sandwich or berry packaging a month from now.”
Phoenix’s partnership with DPI not only diverts 21 million pieces of thermoformed packaging away from the landfill each year, but it also brings those items through the full, circular business model of the recycling process.
“Recycling plastic bottles and containers is one of the major ways we’ll reach our Zero Waste goals for Super Bowl LVII,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “Having a partner like Direct Pack to buy and remanufacture the plastics we sort at our City of Phoenix facilities is essential to diverting waste away from the landfill.”