Recycling green glass can be tricky

Green glass isn’t always easy to recycle; photo by David Tames, Flickr

Most consumers think that any colored glass can be automatically recycled. And technically that’s true. But recyclers know all glass isn’t created equal.

The success of recycling doesn’t just depend on how much consumers toss into their curbside bins, The law of supply and demand is key. If there’s no market for something that’s recyclable, recyclers may not accept it.

Recycling green glass, for example, is one of those items that depends on what part of the country you’re in.

Municipalities like Cheyenne, Wyo., Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo., have dropped glass from their curbside collection programs.

Ripple Glass goes one better than the city, accepting all colors of glass for recycling

The reasons behind the cities’ refusal include high breakage rates, employee safety, and added fuel costs due to weight. However those cities do accept glass at specific drop-off locations. And In Kansas City, an enterprising company called Ripple Glass does accept all types of colored glass.

In Michigan, green glass containers are often considered non-returnable, even though the state has the nation´s highest deposit law (10 cents) and best return rate (97 percent). Once glass has been colored, it can’t be turned into a different color.Many of that states recyclers only accept clear and brown glass because they have a market demand for those.

Then there’s California.

On the West Coast there´s strong demand for green glass, said Jeff Fielkow, Executive Vice President of revenue and growth for ReCommunity Recycling LLC.

The wine industry in California thrives on green glass, photo by James Cridland, Flickr

“The primary reason is the wine industry is very strong in California and wine bottlers tend to be close to the winemakers. And green glass is the container and color choice for the winemaking industry. There´s stronger demand and pricing because of that unique feature.”

“On the East Coast, you´ll have a lot of amber production or flint [clear] for beer bottles,” he said. But the same level of production is low because there isn’t the same amount of wine bottling and production.

Price is another factor.

Green is the color of choice for fiberglass insulation

According to the Container Recycling Institute, color-sorted glass from dual-stream curbside programs might fetch $25 per ton while mixed color glass from dual- or single-stream recycling programs may only be worth $5 per ton.

There is a market for green glass, however. The fiberglass industry uses small amounts of post consumer recycled glass.

Green glass is the preferred medium out of the bottle grades for insulation manufacturing,” said Fielkow.

Fiberglass is used in homes and in the construction of new buildings. With the current economy, that industry has seen a downturn. When the housing industry picks up, the Midwest could see a stronger demand for green glass as insulation sales increase.

So if you’ve  been stashing  green glass in your garage for a while  (or are thinking about it), hang onto it. There be wealth there, if you can wait the market out a bit.


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