No Glass Recycling?

I finally had my first recycling pick up last week after some difficulty getting set up with service at our new home in Alabama.  When the truck pulled up, it idled at the end of my driveway for close to 10 minutes.  I knew I had a lot of stuff out there since I’d been stockpiling my recycling for close to a month, but I didn’t think it would take that long to get it into the truck.

After the truck left, I looked out and saw that one paper bag had been left in my bin.  I thought perhaps I had exceeded the weekly maximum.  What I found was this:

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All glass.  Could it be?  No glass recycling???

I went back and reread the list of acceptable items for recycling and sure enough, glass wasn’t on it.  Given some of the other items on the “yes” list (dry cell batteries! used motor oil!), I must have just assumed glass was part of the mix.

We could recycle glass in Minnesota so this was a pretty disappointing discovery.  It just feels wrong to put glass into the trash.  Especially since it can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its quality, unlike plastic.

After doing a bit of research, I found that its not uncommon for community curbside recycling programs to not accept glass.  Earth 911 has a fabulous overview of glass recycling, including this explanation for why community recycling programs may not accept glass:

It’s important to think of recycling as a business, because that helps you understand why certain materials are in higher demand. Glass has two things going against it in the recycling game: weight and flexibility.

Glass bottles weigh more than plastic and metal, and heavier products cost more to ship. Plus, you can crush and bale a load of aluminum cans or plastic bottles, which reduces space needed in a truck that would otherwise be filled by air.

These two factors often make it more expensive to transport glass for recycling, resulting in a lower resale value. If your community can’t make a profit collecting glass, that may be why it’s not collected. In some cases, glass is not accepted curbside but you can drop it off for recycling. This is yet another reason to know your local recycling rules.

This gets at the issue of markets in recycling – if there’s not a nearby end market for a product, it’s not cost-effective to recycle.  Glass is particularly at risk for this.  According to the Glass Packaging Institute, even though recycled container glass is in high demand, the end markets are not evenly dispersed geographically.  This makes it difficult for communities in certain parts of the country to cost effectively recycle glass.

Since the glass recycling market isn’t the main factor in deciding where we live and I can’t find any drop-off locations near us, it looks like the garbage is where our glass will be going for the time being. That said, I still flinch a little every time I throw some away.

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