Ask Eartha: How to recycle glass in Summit County
Special to the Daily
I have been getting notices from my waste hauler that they are no longer accepting glass in my curbside collection. How can I recycle the copious amount of beer bottles that my roommates and I have? Help.
Matt, the phones at High Country Conservation Center have been ringing constantly with questions about the removal of glass from single-stream recycling starting Jan. 1, 2015. I want to be clear, glass can still be recycled in Summit County; just not in the single-stream recycling.
The fact that the glass is being taken out of single-stream means the value and volume of recycled glass and other materials will be improved.
First, single-stream recycling is also known as commingled or unsorted recycling. If you bring your mixed recycling to the curb in one bin, you probably have single-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling is taken from the curb to a baling facility, then transported to a materials recovery facility (MRF), where it is sorted by material.
The individual commodities can then be made into new products. When glass is added to single-stream, then baled and transported it breaks into tiny shards that contaminate paper, cardboard and other recyclables. According to the Container Recycling Institute, this breakage causes MRFs to sell the mixed broken glass for low-end uses, such as landfill cover and road beds. Even though single-stream is convenient and allows more people to participate, the contamination of broken glass and other recycled items diminishes the value of all the products. More important, single-stream makes it nearly impossible with today’s technology to reuse the glass to make new bottles, which is a real bummer.
So, where can you recycle your glass? Well, you can bring it to the county drop centers located in Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, Summit Cove and Silverthorne, where you can be sure the glass is being recycled. In fact, Summit County’s glass is being taken directly to Rocky Mountain Bottle Co. in Wheatridge, where it is being made back into new bottles. This is called “bottle to bottle” recycling.
By bringing your glass to a drop center, you are doing your part two-fold by ensuring the glass is being recycled and by keeping this valuable commodity in the state of Colorado.
Summit County residents have been source separating for a long time. Since the county announced it will no longer accept glass in single-stream, residents immediately stepped up and started separating. In 2013, for example, the county shipped only 300 tons of valuable glass to Rocky Mountain Bottle. In 2014, it shipped 550 tons of your glass to Wheatridge. Great work, Summit County! Next year, we hope to see more than 600 tons of glass recycled bottle to bottle.
It is important to remember that recycling (and the market that surrounds it) is just like any other industry. It is a constantly evolving system that changes as the market does, and when new information becomes available, the standards for collection will change as well. It is different from a landfill that takes everything for a fee, and puts it all in one place.
While single-stream is convenient, it leads to larger amounts of contamination than source separating, which means the commodities are devalued. The best practice for recycling is to source separate and bring it to the county drop centers, where you can be confident that the materials are being recycled for their greatest value.
If you would like to learn more about the Summit County MRF, recycling practices and what can be recycled here in Summit County, contact the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.
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