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Obaggo featured on Earth911 Podcast



Obaggo's founder and CEO, Dave New, was recently interviewed by Earth911's Mitch Ratcliffe, where he discusses Obaggo's innovation for recycling post-consumer plastic bags and packaging film waste.


Click this link to listen, or read the transcript below:

Earth911 Podcast: Obaggo's Plastic #2 and #4 Recycling Appliance - Earth911


Mitch Ratcliffe - Earth911:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Earth911, Sustainability in Your Ear. I'm Mitch Ratcliffe, and we are back with another conversation with an innovator. But first let me just set the stage here. Recycling in the United States, I think we all know is unnecessarily difficult. Plastic in particular is hard to sort because of the myriad forms that it takes. It's often unlabeled, which means you can't identify what kind of plastic you have in your hand when you want to recycle it and finding drop off locations that accept the material you have can be a matter of luck based on whether or not your city does or doesn't accept something for instance, plastic film. With plastic film, you have few or no options today, but that may be changing.


We're talking with David New, who is the Founder of Obaggo, a countertop appliance that turns a variety of plastic bags into recyclable pucks of plastic that don't jam recycling center equipment. Obaggo can compress plastic bags and film including number two and number four plastic shopping bags, those Amazon recyclable plastic bubble wrappers that you get on your front porch, food wrapping, the cereal bags that are in the boxes of your favorite breakfast, and other things.


It really seems to us, and particularly as I read about this, as catchall solution for a problem that we all face. Now, the Obaggo appliance is currently available through Indiegogo, which means it's a crowdfunding startup and it's priced at $229. That doesn't mean that you necessarily will get the product, but I think David is working hard to make this happen. Obaggo offers a potentially groundbreaking change in the recycling of plastic and it's good to have David New here to explain. You can find out more at www.obaggo, that's O-B-A-G-G-O.com. Welcome to the show David, how are you today?


David New:

I'm great, Mitch. Thanks so much. It's an honor to be here.


Mitch Ratcliffe - Earth911:

Well, thank you for joining us. First off, tell us what the Obaggo appliance does and why this puck is easier to recycle than loose plastic film?


David New:

Sure. Thanks so much for setting the stage. Plastic recycling is really difficult. We have so much plastic bag and packaging film coming into our houses now. The estimate is 380 billion pieces of plastic bags and film each year, and it's the fastest growing type of packaging, and there are very few recycling solutions. Obaggo's solution is to create a kitchen appliance that you can take your plastic bags and packaging film, the recyclable kind, and put them in the device, push a button and then in about 15 minutes, they've been thermoformed into a puck. Now, the reason why this is important is because this puck is now no longer a contaminant to the recycling stream. So your recycler who picks up your curbside bin and then sorts all the recycled items and gets them to recyclers for processing can now handle this object automatically, with no labor, and it's economical.


Mitch Ratcliffe - Earth911:

And one of the reasons it's important that the puck is compact like this is that it doesn't jam the equipment which leads to injuries when people try to unjam the equipment. So it's a good thing for the recycling worker in addition to just solving the problem for all of us. How big is the Obaggo appliance, and I also have to ask, does it represent a potential source of odor if for instance, you put unwashed meat wrapping in it?


David New:

Okay. So first it's very compact. We designed it to tuck away in the back of your kitchen countertop. It's about seven inches by seven inches square, and then about a 11 inches tall.


It doesn't represent a significant source of odors per se. However, you definitely need to use only recyclable plastic packaging. When I say recyclable packaging, it needs to be clean and dry, and one of the recyclable types that you'll find listed either on our website or at plasticfilmrecycling.org, or any of the plastic films that you can take back to the retail store system. Now, generally these plastics, they need to be clean and dry, and typically plastic that's been in contact with meat is contaminated with fat proteins and maybe fish are not recyclable. Those contaminants will create an unrecyclable product for people who want to make products out of it. So just think about if you were to recycle a jar of spaghetti sauce or a jar of peanut butter. Spaghetti sauce and peanut butter really create a contaminated recyclable commodity and no recycler wants to have dirty products so please wash the spaghetti sauce off your jars, your peanut butter out of your jar, and if you have a plastic bag, it's just as washable as anything else.


Mitch Ratcliffe - Earth911:

One of the reasons I asked about the odor, for instance, is you have a charcoal filter on it so that you do have a way of cleaning the air. But your point about identifying those plastics, if you don't see a plastic number on something, should it go in Obaggo?


David New:

The rule of thumb always in recycling is “when in doubt throw it out!”

But we are going to do the best job that we can to educate our users as to what is and isn't recyclable. There are dozens and dozens of products that you get every day that are recyclable. There are a lot that aren't. And we are also trying to act as a catalyst towards improved labeling and improved sustainable packaging. The trends are all improving in these areas. There's the “How2Recycle” labels, there are other labels that manufacturers are putting on their product specific to their business, like Dow Chemical has “Recycle Ready” plastic film that you might find on let's say, Bear Naked granola. Amcor has a recyclable film that you might find on Nature Valley granola bars and it might have a slightly different label on it, but the trend is towards improved labelling and more recyclable films. So we'll do our best to educate people and also help encourage consumer package goods companies to improve their labeling.


Mitch Ratcliffe - Earth911:

So if you've done a good job of sorting this, it should be recyclable. Would it be recyclable in a curbside recycling bin, as well as a drop-off location?


David New:

So the goal of our business is to get them conveniently recycled curbside. We have a little bit of a chicken or egg problem, we call it. It's hard to get acceptance in a curbside system when you don't exist, but we're trying and we're making progress. We actually already have a couple of Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) who have said, "We can take your pucks on day one. Not a problem for us," and often these may be material recovery fa