Glass is an amazing material that can be recycled (and recycled, and recycled, and recycled....) glass can also be reused BUT... it currently poses many, many challenges to MRF's (material recovery facilities). Glass has been a problem for quite some time now but with the increase in single stream collection it's become an even larger hurdle. The good news is that it seems that the recycling of glass has increased but the bad news is that, at this point, in the form that it's often received in, it is not unilaterally able to be recycled. We need help and here's why:
1. Glass is breakable. As glass is placed in bins, transported, dumped at drop center(s), and processed the whole bottle tends to become many, many pieces. The pieces get mixed with other bottles (of varying colors) and due to the mixture of colors they are no longer wanted for making "new" glass.
2. Glass is a very difficult contaminant (when broken). If paper or plastic have any moisture the small glass shards will adhere to it making production much more difficult at the end user.
3. Glass is tough! The highest amount of wear that our equipment experiences is because of continued contact with glass. Rubber and metal wear significantly due to the continual presence of glass and it's highly abrasive nature.
4. Glass is heavy. When a recycler is accepting mixed recyclables a large percentage of the weight they receive are made up of glass (a product that when broken becomes quite difficult to re market and is thus quite costly).
5. In this "mixed" color, broken form there are very select markets available for this material. Most end users who are making new glass need color sorted (contaminant free) glass. Just like the glass that contaminants the plastic and paper, plastic and paper contaminant the broken glass. It would not be unlikely to see small bottle caps, shredded paper, small pieces of aluminum and other small items commingled with the glass. Solutions for this material have been located, tested, and approved (it works superbly in septic systems, sludge beds, drainage applications) but the production currently far exceeds the demand. We need more viable mixed glass markets or the idea of removing glass from the recycling stream may need to become a reality.
The Department of Environmental Production and other like agencies have funds that are working to assist market creation and stimulation for these types of items. We need to see more progress and urgency to get this matter resolved. Despite the recommendation of some agencies to landfill our growing "mountain" of material we just don't feel that this is the right environmental choice but if markets are demanding the material we could be forced (legally) to do so. What are your thoughts??