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Re: [greenyes] Abandoning glass recycling?

>>> Alan Muller <amuller@no.address> 11/3/2004 10:34:50 AM >>>

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;

This is true - but this is a sorting/storage issue, not a collection
issue. You can sort/store paper separately from other recyclables or you
can sort/store glass separately from other recyclables. The culprit here
is the approach for recyclables collection (single-stream), not the
material being collected.

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

I thought this was what optical sorting equipment is for. I believe
Eureka! Recycling has installed such equipment in recent years - perhaps
Susan Hubbard or someone from their organization can comment on how that
investment is working out for them so far.

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

I can't speak for Delaware, but in Minnesota, recycling tonnage for
container glass has continued to increase over the past five years. In
1998, statewide tonnage was reported as 68,500 tons. In 2002, it was
reported as 76,600 tons or a more than 10% increase.

Recycling collection data for glass and other materials for Minnesota
can be found online at

As for glass being "OK to landfill" - I suppose that's true but that
doesn't make it very smart to do. Like Susan mentioned, our criteria for
materials management should be what is the highest and best use, not
whether it is "OK to landfill."

There's still a market for recycling glass and as best I can recall,
glass is still one of the materials where significant energy savings are
achieved in using recycled material as opposed to virgin. In addition, a
colleague of mine who works in market development for recyclables told
me the same thing that Susan mentioned in her post - the market for
glass in containers/packaging is growing, not declining.

Mark Snyder
Pollution Prevention Specialist
Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance

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