Oregon’s Local Plastic Breathes New Life Into Craft Beer’s Single Use Plastics

image of plastic recycling courtesy of The Broomsmen
image of plastic recycling courtesy of The Broomsmen

(BEND, Ore.) — With 22 breweries in Central Oregon, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to craft beer. But with all that beer comes an abundance of plastic, largely in the form of single-use six-pack holders that typically end up in the trash and landfill. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and that’s where the entrepreneurial- and environmentally-minded team at Local Plastic (@localplastic) comes in.

Recently featured in an episode of Central Oregon Makers from Visit Central Oregon, Local Plastic has joined forces with breweries throughout Central Oregon and beyond to breathe new life into single-use and other plastics by transforming them into completely new products. For the time being, Local Plastic is focused on producing large sheets of recycled plastic, which are then handed over to designers and other makers to turn them into functional pieces ranging from planters, bowls, and drinkware, to tabletops, architectural panels, and even barstools. Together with these makers and local brewers, Local Plastic is building a greener beer industry, one six-pack at a time.

The idea behind Local Plastic began when owner Phil Torchio saw a need for an innovative alternative to single-use plastic, such as those found in beer six-pack holders, after discovering that only about 30 percent of plastics that end up in recycling bins can actually be recycled through traditional means. In their quest for clean plastic, Local Plastic discovered PakTech, a sustainable plastics company based in Eugene, Ore., that produces packaging holders that are 100 percent recycled and recyclable. With the help of PakTech products, Local Plastic has kept the cycle going, ensuring that PakTech holders are, once again, being repurposed.

“We know the beer gets consumed, and the empty cans get returned for their deposit refund, but the last piece of the equation is the packaging that ties it all together,” said Torchio. “If that packaging is cardboard then it is easier to recycle, but oftentimes it is single-use plastic. Rather than have all that plastic end up in the landfill one six-pack at a time, we knew there had to be a useful, practical, and environmentally friendly way to repurpose all that waste.”

Local Plastic is working with Central Oregon breweries to collect the PakTech and other six-pack toppers, sorting the toppers by color, and shredding the plastic into small flecks which then sit under a pressurized machine where they eventually melt into colorful panels. Local Plastic’s work isn’t limited to just recycling six-pack toppers, and also includes other projects like upcycling used malt bags into totes, and transforming other clean plastics—ranging from milk jugs and yogurt containers to prescription pill bottles and even used pickleballs—into new products.

Local Plastic is part of a larger company called The Broomsmen, an event management business that specializes in sustainability and waste reduction for weddings and events of all sizes. Established in 2015, The Broomsmen use source separating techniques in an effort to keep resources out of landfills. You can find The Broomsmen and their trendy recycling, compost, glass, and trash bins at many popular events throughout Central Oregon. During summer fire season, The Broomsmen also operate a fire camp recycling business that sorts and recycles discarded waste from wildfire camps throughout Oregon.

To learn more about Local Plastic, watch Central Oregon Makers: Local Plastic or visit www.thebroomsmen.com to find out how you can help promote zero waste in the beer industry and beyond.

Located on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, where vast forests give way to the arid high desert, Central Oregon is characterized by year-round adventure, authenticity, inspiration, and environment. From the towering peaks of the Cascades to the pristine waters of the Wild & Scenic Deschutes River, and from the more urban experiences of Bend and Redmond, to the rural charms of Sisters, La Pine, Prineville, Madras, Warm Springs, and Maupin, Central Oregon offers a perfect mix of recreation and sophistication. Barely three hours from Portland, and with daily direct flights from eight major markets, getting to Central Oregon is a breeze. For more information visit www.visitcentraloregon.com or call 800-800-8334.