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RE: [GreenYes] Curbside Collection of Glass
VERY good points!  agree!


-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf
Of Jeff Morris
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 3:17 PM
Subject: [GreenYes] Curbside Collection of Glass

I hope and pray every one on this list really read 
and understood Bob Kirby's message regarding 
collecting glass through curbside recycling 
programs. I'd like to support what he wrote with a 
few observations of my own.

(1) I'm wont to say that curbside is mass transit 
for recyclables whenever I hear about schemes for 
using drop off to collect materials from households 
and businesses. To me that captures the essence of 
the savings in pollutant emissions from hauling 
discards around. It should be obvious that it's a 
bad idea to throw glass off the recycling bus and 
into a multitude of individual cars, SUVs and pickup 

(2) It costs something to collect glass in the 
garbage truck just like it does to collect glass on 
the recycling truck. As we get closer and closer to 
zero waste, that cost of adding glass back into the 
garbage collection system gets to be a bigger and 
bigger percentage of garbage collection costs. We've 
got glass out of the garbage now, why put it back in 
there and then realize down the road how much we 
could reduce volume and cost on the garbage truck by 
taking it out again?

(3) Based on just the 27 pollutants covered by EPA's 
Decision Support Tool for Municipal Solid Waste 
Management, and on the range of cost estimates for 
those pollutants that have been developed and 
reported in the literature, the upstream benefits of 
using recycled glass instead of virgin materials 
(e.g., glass sand) to manufacture new glass 
containers is in the range $18 to $68 per ton. These 
costs are not currently incorporated in the direct 
costs of using virgin materials. Rather they 
are "externalized" onto society at large and the 
future. But they are real costs paid by someone, 
nonetheless, and so we ought to take them into 
account before we decide that recycling glass is not 
worth the costs we pay to do it. 

(4) The costs of pollutants reflected in the $18 to 
$68 per ton figures above are in large part the 
costs to human health from breathing or ingesting 
those 27 pollutants in our air and water. They do 
not reflect at all the costs to other species and to 
ecosystems (or natural capital as some like to say) 
of digging and drilling in the earth and the oceans 
to extract virgin mineral resources to manufacture 
new glass containers(or plastic or metal, for that 
matter). In a the-present-only-counts, humans-with-
money-only-count, bottom-line-driven market system, 
these other kinds of costs don't matter so much. But 
I would hope that we all understand these other 
kinds of costs are precisely why we recycle instead 
of waste, and why we press for societal responses to 
temper and reign in the excesses and ignorance of 
the unbridled marketplace.

(5) Bob Kirby's and other folks' work in developing 
lower value added markets for recycled glass is 
important in supporting and enriching and 
diversifying the glass recycling infrastructure. It 
helps make closed loop recycling of glass containers 
into glass containers more efficient. It does not 
replace or undermine closed loop recycling, and the 
existence of lower value added markets should not be 
used as an excuse for giving up on curbside 
collection of glass, even in those places which do 
not have access to higher value added markets. Even 
the use of recycled glass as a substitute for gravel 
or other aggregates reduces the acquisition of those 
virgin aggregate materials from our ecosystems.

It's good to ask hard questions about recycling, but 
it's not so smart to accept answers that accentuate 
the short-term, internalized-cost-centric bottom 
line and mostly disregard long-term sustainability.  

Thanks for the opportunity to give a long answer 

Dr. Jeffrey Morris
Sound Resource Management - Bellingham Office
112 Ohio Street, Suite 202
Bellingham, WA 98225

360-738-0256 fax or 
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