Glass. It should be one of the most easily recyclable materials, given that glass can be recycled into new bottles and jars an infinite number of times and it never wears out. Making new glass items from recycled glass reduces related water pollution by 50 percent. And recycling a single glass jar conserves enough electricity to power an 11-watt CFL bulb for 20 hours.
Even so, more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in our country’s landfills every year. One of the reasons so much glass ends up in landfills is because much of it is broken before it can be recycled. It’s difficult for glass manufacturers to sort the glass by color once it’s broken, so it’s typically transported to landfills in those instances.
Rumpke Waste and Recycling, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, identified this environmental concern and decided to do something about it. This company has become an integral player in Ohio’s efforts to keep glass out of landfills to keep glass manufacturing companies stocked with the glass they need. A 2011 study discovered that Ohio manufacturers had a need for up to 295,000 tons of recycled glass each year. That number is nearly triple the 110,000 tons of recycled glass they were receiving at the time.
In addition, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency identified that 90 percent of the glass in the state was being thrown in the garbage. The agency put together a plan to reduce that waste while Rumpke Waste and Recycling went to work on putting the broken, mixed-color glass to use.
Through its efforts, the state of Ohio identified that it could collect an extra:
- 68,000 tons of glass by improving curbside recycling
- 53,000 tons of glass by pushing restaurants and bars to start recycling
- 14,400 tons by creating drop-off recycling centers for residents
Rumpke Waste and Recycling constructed a Glass Processing Facility in Dayton to process the broken, mixed-color glass down to the consistency of sand. This glass sand is now used in the fiberglass insulation industry. In addition, their optical sorting technology allowed the plant to recover larger pieces of amber and clear glass to be manufactured into new jars and bottles. Currently, the facility can process 80,000 tons annually.
Between the efforts of the state and Rumpke, Ohio has become the country’s leader in glass recycling.
Do you participate in local glass recycling programs?
Feature image courtesy of Jaione Dagdrømmer