Eartha Steward: Summit County should hit the (glass) bottle |

Eartha Steward: Summit County should hit the (glass) bottle

Summit County is changing its glass recycling program.
Getty Images | Digital Vision

Dear Eartha,

I noticed the last time I went to the recycle drop-off in Frisco that the brown glass container has changed to a clear glass container. What gives?

— Doug, Frisco

Yes! A change has occurred at all the recycling drop sites across Summit County. What used to be the brown glass container is now for clear glass alone. Don’t worry, these kinds of changes don’t happen just for fun. There are great changes happening with our recycled glass and I’m here to give you the inside scoop.

Glass, no matter what color, is one of the few materials that can be recycled infinitely without losing strength, purity or quality. How great is that!? When shopping, consider choosing glass over plastic. Once you are done with your beer bottle or other glass container you can dispose of it at one of our four recycling drop sites. They are located in Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and Summit Cove. Each of these drop sites take glass bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors. Recycling gets your glass back on the shelf usually within 30 days as opposed to in the landfill where it can take thousands years to break down.

According to the EPA only about 26 percent of purchased glass products get recycled. Imagine if we could get that number closer to 100 percent. How many more tons of glass could we save from the landfill to get back on our shelves in the form of new bottles and jars? Brand-new glass is made from a recipe of sand, limestone, soda ash and a lot of energy. Cullet is an industry name for the glass that has been recycled and bought back by the glass industry to be made into new glass. Cullet is cheaper than the raw materials used to make new glass, and it melts at a lower temperature making it easier to use. In the glass-manufacturing process, cullet also takes consumes 40 percent less energy than raw materials.

Summit County keeps glass separated from the rest of its recyclables to keep the value of the glass intact. Think about it. Recyclables get baled. Baling is a process that crushes the recycled items together in a tight little square. What happens when you squeeze a glass too tight? It breaks and makes a huge mess. It’s hard to recycle something that’s in a million pieces on the floor of the recycling center. By keeping the glass out of the baling process, the county can keep this high-value material close to home. The Coors bottling plant, also known as the Rocky Mountain Bottling Co., is right here in Colorado and buys all our recycled glass to make into new bottles.

Coors has traditionally used brown glass for its products and has been willing to pay more for the brown glass. Since Miller has joined forces with Coors, the company now has a higher demand for clear glass bottles. Miller High Life, anyone? Because Miller Coors is offering far more compensation for clear glass instead of brown glass, the county decided it was time for a change. It was a no-brainer! By supporting this decision, we are supporting community recycling programs. It’s like fundraising for our recycling programs every time you throw a bottle into the right container.

Even if you have curbside recycling, you can still help out. By pulling glass containers from your single-stream recycle container and bringing them to a county recycling center, more of your glass will ultimately be recycled. And you’ll be supporting Summit County’s community recycling efforts. So regardless of how you recycle in Summit County, your efforts truly make a difference.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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