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RE: [greenyes] Abandoning glass recycling?

Alan (et. al. for debate purposes),
I'm a little slow in responding to this question, still a little sore emotionally and physically from a day of running from house to house to get out the vote in Philly's western suburbs - a worthwhile commute considering NYC/NYS had the situation locked up - just mailed my FOIL request to Ohio's Secretary of State for a full accounting of the quarter million provisional ballots still not counted there.

I had to pick and choose which reply to reprise in my response, but decided Patty's made the most sense for me as she referred to NYC's most recent experiences. In April 2002, while I was chairing the NYC Waste Prevention Coalition we commissioned a report entitled Why Waste the Future? about why the curbside recycling program should not be cancelled (paper was never considered for cancellation). Please see the following site

The valuable areas of consideration here are related very much to issues of collection and those costs. Thanks to the strength of our City Council and the local Teamsters that work for our Department of Sanitation (DSNY) - Mayor Bloomberg was not able to cancel anything and instead, presumably in a deal cut with the union, kept pickups of metal and temporarily suspended glass and plastics pickups. This poor policy decision became a windfall for recycling everywhere as it failed to produce previously estimated savings (in fact may have cost an additional $10 million according to unreleased report by another NYC elected official). The savings that were expected to be delivered would have come from a consolidation of collections which was never able to be fully realized with the continuation of metal collections.

Although Susan, appreciates the fine work Helen has done in New York (and I do too, I think we did some fine work on EPR in Buffalo summer 2003 - all can check it out at, I believe her work in British Columbia is far more extensive. To address Alan's question about dropping glass and promoting a commingled curbside recycling with the excuses given for doing so consider -

(1) broken glass will contaminate the paper stream and reduce prices gotten for it;
to my understanding this is being born out in California and elsewhere, when "waste" companies are handling the curbside collections, the failure to seperate this contamination from their own interests is problematic
(2) recycling glass isn't profitable unless it's separated by color;
any number of opportunities for recycling mixed cullet exist including those cited by Patty, further, technology has improved to the point where optical sorting can be done down to fairly small pieces at a modest additional cost - this is what Hugo Neu will be doing in NYC and what Waste Management already does across the Hudson in New Jersey
(3) the tonnage is relatively small and decreasing (as plastic containers take over) and glass is OK to landfill as a stable material.
suggesting small portion of the waste stream is what got us all into this mess, laziness to separate valuable commodities is what creates "waste" in the first place, I believe the studies out there that suggest glass packaging is increasing are quite supportable

With all these things in mind however, there certainly could be a pathway to Helen's EPR utopia, switching to a wet/dry collection system, but it should include all the following steps if not more:

a case could be made for an expansion of Deleware's (not to be confused with poor excuses for bottle bills like California's) existing bottle bill to include all glass containers (other types of glass and ceramics are not currently considered recyclable by most municipalities) (fear not - this glass would be readily marketable for existing and new recycling markets like Patty's company);

a ban on "disposal" of recyclable glass in both the wet and dry discard streams;

development of reuse plans to get additional "non-recyclable" glass and ceramics (as well as other valuable reuseables) out of the dry stream;

development of a state-of-the-art material recovery facility that could sift out currently recyclable commodities including metal, plastics, paper ...(textiles);

and while you're at it a ban on sales and disposal of plastic #3's a/k/a PVC and support for organically based plastics that are compostable ( - scroll to New York Plastics Challenge).
In NYC, the NYC Zero Waste Campaign (I serve as the lead organizer) formed in the fall of 2003 has pushed for very agressive recoveries that may require multiple sorts at the curbside and offers room for entreprenuerial interests to embrace "reusable" discards at a savings to the City. See the Campaign's model plan for NYC released in June of 2004, entitled, Reaching for Zero .

In the spring of 2004, NRDC after working with a number of the most respected advocates on solid waste in NYC also released a report outlining a few areas where the NYC could make adjustments that would improve its recycling programs, the report entitled Recycling Returns can be found at

Whatever you do, keep at the forefront of your mind, communities are impacted by all of our decisions - so when you have to site facilities and plan collections, the impacts of transfer stations (for waste, recyclables or reuseables), manufacturing, composting, sorting, garages and conventional stupidity like landfills and incinerators (including gasification and any other alchemy related technology) is very real. The design of these operations and how they perform economically, ecologically and in the context of social equity must, I repeat must be at the forefront of your thoughts and plans - otherwise your intentions are doomed to be non-sustainable.

Timothy J.W. Logan
(feel free to make up your own silly or stunning titles for me - I'm currently hanging out a shingle for independant consulting thanks to downturns in the economic market which have greatly altered the funding world over the last 3-4 years and this email represents only my personal opinions - so yes, I'm pretty much in line with the headline of the London's Daily Mirror - "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?")
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2004 21:52:20 -0600
To: <greenyes@no.address>
From: "Patty Bates-Ballard" <pattyballard@no.address>
Subject: RE: [greenyes] Abandoning glass recycling?

I am new to this loop, so hello to everyone. I work for a company that uses
post-use glass in terrazzo flooring. In addition to our product, there are
a lot of uses for contaminated (mixed color) glass, including glassphault, filtration systems, backfill and storm water drainage systems, sandblasting abrasive, fiberglass insulation, reflective paint, marbles and costume jewelry. Glass performs better than sand, gravel, marble, etc. in many of these uses because it is smooth and angular,
and doesn't produce harmful silica dust.

We are really working to communicate with municipalities that are considering suspending their glass recycling programs. The alternative uses are out there; it's a matter of building markets or matching municipalities with markets. We are also encouraged to hear that New York found that their suspension of glass recycling did not produce the savings anticipated, and that they have restarted glass recycling. Our position is that anything that can be diverted from the landfill should be; just because it's not a big percentage doesn't mean we should disregard it. 12-14 million tons of
glass waste a year is nothing to sneeze at.


Patty Bates-Ballard
Public Relations Director
EnviroGLAS Products, Inc.
"Treat the Earth well. It was not given to us by our parents; it was loaned to us by our children." -Ecologist Lee Talbot

on 11/3/04 11:34 AM, Alan Muller at amuller@no.address 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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