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RE: [greenyes] Abandoning glass recycling?

Hello Alan,

With due respect to Helen and her obvious hard work and success in New York,
the question you ask about whether or not to keep glass in a recycling
program is not a question of bickering as she suggests. It is actually a
very important question that addresses the slow erosion of our understanding
regarding the value of recycling. The value - which isn't to conveniently
organize resources (wastes) into neat categories but to recover and reuse
the resources that we have extracted from the environment at their highest
and best value.

This view of recycling encompasses the intrinsic understanding that certain
materials, glass for one, are perfect examples of materials that have been
and can be recycled at their highest and best value. They should be
supported, lauded and incentive zed - not dropped.

In response to your questions:

#1 >(1) broken glass will contaminate the paper stream and reduce prices
>gotten for it;

AF&PA reports that single stream is costing them an additional $8 ton. Paper
mills owned by Weyerhaeuser, Sonoco, SP Newsprint and others all report that
they will and do pay less for single stream and in many cases refuse to
handle it at all. Several Canadian Mills report that they are increasing
their use of virgin fiber (trees) because of quality issues due to single
stream. Since WMI is the largest recycler in the country they have a
certain amount of persuasion over the mills that need their paper. As I
result I suggest that we are all actually getting less money for our paper
single stream of source separated to cover these mills costs in handling WMI
and other single stream low quality paper. You can get a report from AF&PA
on the impacts of single stream on paper recycling a

#2>(2) recycling glass isn't profitable unless it's separated by color;

I don't know what your glass markets are like in Delaware but you definitely
won't get anything close to the same money for mixed glass. Additionally,
from a single stream program the glass is often not even good enough to be
sold as a three-color mix but has to be used as some aggregate material. The
Glass Packaging Industry might have better information for you.
Also, NRC is supposed to be working with a Glass Advisory Group on these
issues, so you may want to contact them.

>(3) the tonnage is relatively small and decreasing (as plastic containers
>take over) and glass is OK to landfill as a stable material.

Some make the argument that of all things glass is good in landfills. Heck
it is inert. This is the shortest and most damaging environmental view of
recycling. Is recycling about putting inert materials in landfills? Is
Helen's view that recycling is about what gets collected at the curb not
what actually happens too the materials that are collected? IS our only
choice to drop the 15- 18% by weight of what is currently recovered in glass
bottles to gain the 20+% that we can achieve by adding organics? While
plastic bottles and aluminum cans made in this country continue to be
recycled at lower and lower rates - glass is the only bottle that has not
lost tons in the recycling rates....yet. About decreasing amounts of glass,
according to Jerry Powell of Resource Recycling magazine, glass bottle
packaging has recently seen an increase in their market share of packaging.

IF ONLY THE PROBLEM WAS CONFINED TO GLASS...Portland metro in Oregon is the
example that Helen uses for information on organics (which clearly should be
the next material we target). I suggest you also look at the decision
Portland metro made to keep glass in their program by using a two stream
method instead of single stream. Portland metro collects all materials
except glass in one bin and collects glass in a separate bin but on the same
truck. They did this to resolve the issue that they had with excessive
amounts of glass in their paper. At this year's NRC Congress, Portland metro
reported that although much less there continues to be glass in the paper
since residents were first told to put all materials together. More
importantly, they have conclusive information that indicates that they have
a great deal of plastic in their paper from the single sort method. (Single
sort would be similar to the dry fraction in a wet dry program that Helen
suggests.)They are currently considering how they can address this new

So my question back to you, is it time to drop glass and plastic bottles
from recycling programs? Anything else we should stop recycling so that we
can be more sustainable?

Susan Hubbard
Eureka Recycling
2828 Kennedy St., NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413


Waste is Preventable Not Inevitable

-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Spiegelman [mailto:hspie@no.address]
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 12:18 PM
To: greenyes@no.address
Subject: Re: [greenyes] Abandoning glass recycling?

Hello Alan,

I would like to suggest that the group is pursuing the wrong dichotomy.
Rather than divide all waste into the two proposed categories, I suggest
that you think about separating wastes into ORGANICS and OTHER WASTES.

There would need to be strong supplemental messaging about BANS on the

This is the familiar wet-dry system, which collects "wet" food waste, yard
waste, and low-grade paper products separately from "dry" products, which
would include both currently recyclable products (such as glass,
newspapers, etc.) and products for which no current recycling programs
exist (all other products except HAZARDOUS).

Thus, rather than bicker over which products are 'recyclable', we go with a
distinction which is practical as well as principled.

After hazardous products (paint, oil, pesticides, computers, etc.) organics
cause the most immediate problem when landfilled: they are the source of
leachate and methane. Also, there are local markets for finished compost
(if nothing else, as soil amendment in public parks). Also, organics
technologies are turning out to be quite diverse, with the promise of
producing not only soil amendment but energy (methane) in conditions that
are much more controlled than the very crude landfill gas capture programs
that are being used by the waste industry to rehabilitate landfilling.

As a devout supporter of EPR, I hold to a vision that someday all products
will go "back to their makers" (this is the kind of discourse we are
supposed to use in the post-election era?). My belief in EPR also compels
me to hold my local community responsible for proper stewardship of
community organics. Just as I don't cut producers any slack in landfilling
their products, I won't cut my local government any slack in landfilling
community organics.

I urge you to take a look at Metro-Portland's White Paper on its Organic
Waste Management Program at:



At 08:34 AM 11/3/2004, Alan Muller wrote:
>A group working on a curbside program for Delaware has proposed a two
>stream system in which residents would separate their wastes into
>recyclables, and non-recyclables to be landfilled. Part of the proposal
>is to have the users put the glass into the non-recyclables.
>Several reasons (or excuses) are offered for this, including:
>(1) broken glass will contaminate the paper stream and reduce prices
>gotten for it;
>(2) recycling glass isn't profitable unless it's separated by color;
>(3) the tonnage is relatively small and decreasing (as plastic containers
>take over) and glass is OK to landfill as a stable material.
>I would much appreciate some comment on this.
>Alan Muller
>Alan Muller, Executive Director
>Green Delaware
>Box 69
>Port Penn, DE 19731 USA
>fax (302)836-3005

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