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Re: [greenyes] The environmental impacts of recycling glass
Helen, John and many others have raised important points regarding the
benefits (or lack thereof) of recycling glass.  

The crass world of economics does have some lessons to offer.  Any loss
in revenues from other materials due to cross-contamination of glass are
properly attributed as a cost to the glass fraction.  These losses would
be added to the baseline costs to pick up a heavy material with
relatively low resale value.  The anecdotal evidence presented thus far
by other posters is that even before assigning the revenue losses from
contamination, the value of glass recovering is often overwhelmingly
negative.

But too much of the discussion thus far has focused only on the
calculation made by municipalities.  Markets, after all, are dynamic,
and playing out market responses a few rounds might be a useful
exercise:

-The better programs can quantify their total costs for handling glass,
the stronger the case they can make for why to discontinue it (or
alternatively, to modify education, collection, or marketing to improve
the returns).

-An important corrollary is that good data can destroy industry fluff
fast.  The negative aura these numbers can cast over the glass industry
and their claims that "glass recycles" (which, after all, virtually
every material does at least theoretically), can be a central element in
spurring positive action.  

-Faced with this negative attention, and the prospect or reality of
being dropped by recycling programs nationwide, one would expect the
glass industry to rouse itself out of its passive marketing into
actually developing solutions that can rescue glass recovery.

-Many possible venues are open to them.  These might include diversion
(such as a bottle bill or a refillable network); package
standardization; industry development and promotion of technologies to
auto sort broken glass; partnerships with key affected industries to
develop filtering technologies for glass shards; establishment of
futures markets to guarantee returns to MRFs, etc.  

After all, soft drinks may be the dominion of plastic and aluminum, but
in many other market segments glass is still the container of choice for
the largest food companies in the world.  Were it to be a priority, I
have no doubt they could come up with a range of new solutions for glass
packaging that greatly expand the set of choices recyclers face today.

-Doug Koplow

_______________________________
Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02140
www.earthtrack.net
Tel:  617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463



>>> Helen Spiegelman <hspie@no.address> 04/14/03 10:46AM >>>
Thanks to John Reindl for supplying yet another piece of credible
testimony 
underscoring the limited environmental benefits of recycling glass.

Everyone needs to understand that the environmental benefits quantified

below apply only when the glass is recycled back into glass. The much
more 
common practice is to "recycle" glass into drainrock/aggregate
substitute 
at construction sites. This "recycling" application represents a
complete 
write-off of all the energy used to transform the sand into glass in
the 
first place.

Is glass recycling a benefit to the environment or a feel-good exercise
at 
considerable public expense?

Helen.







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