The Recycle Bin: More on glass


We return to glass bottles and jars today because there has been a great deal of concern about the decision to stop collecting them as recyclables.

When our Recycling Ordinance was enacted in 1993, there was a lot of resistance to recycling, but our town persevered and led the way in this important area. In time, folks found that it is not the burden they supposed it to be, and have since then strongly embraced the practice.

So, now we’re asking the community to stop recycling glass!

The irony of asking folks to put less into their recycling bins in order to strengthen our recycling program is not lost on our committee members. Until we can find a way to recycle glass effectively, however, we feel it’s the best we can do with it, and it will save us close to $100/ton to send it to the landfill directly. That’s a lot of money. The money we save can be better used to help us reform the way we think and practice recycling in town. It pains us all to make this change, and I’m sorry to have to be the bearer of the bad news, but it really is the best way forward for us just now. We will continue to work hard to improve the processing and get glass back into the recycling stream for Brunswick. We mean to make this temporary!

Please believe that the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee had the same sense of horror when the idea was first advanced. We accepted the concept as a compromise short of stopping the recycling program entirely, which several neighboring communities have done on account of the recent explosion in costs.

At one time, Brunswick made money on recycling, but since the markets collapsed when China introduced their new policies on contamination, all towns have been paying for the service, and many have found the cost unbearable.

Glass is a special issue because, by weight, it is 11% of our recyclables, very heavy to transport, difficult to handle, and has little residual value as a recycled commodity. In fact, for the past two years, our processor has not been recycling glass at all. It’s been going straight to the landfill, but we’re being charged for it to be recycled.

Mixed glass is not very useful in the glass industry, but there are alternatives. Finely crushed, it is an excellent substitute for sand in ways such as building “dirt” roads and pathways, or for mixing with concrete or paving materials. It is resilient, and it doesn’t break down. Bad qualities, generally, but excellent for the uses to which it’s being put.

Our current processor, unfortunately, does not have the means to make better use of the material, so it goes into their landfill instead.

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