Glass and Recycling

Waste – Where and how do we landfill? The Topic: GLASS! – What really happens to recycled glass? Longer answer: Boise is still  land-filling glass because many businesses and households do not separate their glass from the other solid wastes. What can I do? Reduce and reuse before you recycle. Purchase items in other containers, buy in bulk, reuse and repurpose bottles and jars prior to taking them to collection sites. Be conscious of what you buy and you will have to be less conscious about what you need to throw away. In Ada county Idaho there have been drop-off glass collection sites for well over 10 years. There are well over a dozen of these locations that accept glass county-wide. Curbside pick-up is also available $5.50/month , it is an opt-in program through Republic Services and Curb It, a Sustainable Boise program details here. This glass is then added to the “recycling” stream of glass for the region. But what does that mean? Well, Boise is too far from a large enough market to sell our glass into the traditional recycling stream, the cost of shipping is too high. As an alternative use, ACHD was going to use the glass in road beds during road construction and they did from about 2003 to 2006[1]. In 2006 the ACHD crushed 3,000 tons of glass and used it in road construction as fill material.[2] By 2010 the issue was getting worse, not better, ACHD was unable to keep up with the glass supply. They cited that there were not enough road construction projects to meet the supply and that many of the projects that were occurring were subcontracted so they weren’t using any glass. No glass was crushed for nearly a four year period and the crusher broke down and was never replaced[3]. Ada county had created two “foothills” sized piles of unwanted glass and no market for the material, each hill was reported to be the size of a football field and about 30 feet tall every week an ACHD employee would drive a caterpillar tractor over the new bottles and they would be shuffled into the ever growing piles of unused glass[4]. In 2010 two possible solutions were proposed. 1. The City asked Allied Waste to come up with a plan for opt-in curbside pick-up, which was projected to cost about 9.95 extra per month. 2. The city had recently acquired an old surplus glass crusher from Mountain Home Air force Base, they were looking for a private industry that could come in and create a market for all the glass. Environmental Abrasives came forward and created a public-private partnership with the city to fill this void. The company it is currently crushing the glass into “sand-blasting” media and selling it in the open market.[5] I recently spoke with an employee of the City of Boise. I asked her how she perceives the status of the glass program. In short she said that she is very grateful that Environmental Abrasives was such an ingenuitive company and praised the entrepreneurial spirit of the solution. Personally, I try not to buy items in glass containers to reduce the number of times I need to deliver my glass to drop-off locations because that is easier for me.   [1] accessed 2/4/2015 [2] accessed 2/4/2015 [3] accessed 2/4/2015 [4] accessed 2/4/5015 [5] Ibid.]]>