Glass recycling seems to be on the minds of many residents recently, after receiving notice that their waste hauler will no longer accept glass in their curbside recycling program. The good news is that glass can still be recycled at community drop off facilities, such as the Sandy Springs Recycling Center.
Tips for recycling glass at the Sandy Springs Recycling Center, 470 Morgan Falls Road, Sandy Springs, GA:
The reason behind this recent change in curbside recycling has to do with market prices and changes in the way recycled materials are processed. Over the past decade, most residential curbside recycling programs in the metro Atlanta area have shifted to single stream recycling, in other words, all of the recycling goes into a single bin and is sorted out at a regional facility. Single stream collection increases convenience and participation rates in curbside recycling programs, but it poses challenges for the facilities that process the collected materials.
Single stream recycling facilities use a combination of hand sorting and machinery to sort out the items in the truckload, separating cardboard, aluminum, ferrous metals, glass, paper, various plastics, and glass. This sorting equipment uses conveyor belts, magnets, optic eyes, rollers, blowers and other sophisticated technology to sort the materials.
Glass is one of the materials that can cause trouble for a single-stream system. Glass is abrasive, and can damage the sorting equipment. It also breaks into sharp pieces, can injure workers, and mixes in with other items such as paper and plastic, contaminating the other materials so that a large percentage of otherwise recyclable material ends up going to a landfill.
Complicating the issue is the fact that market prices for materials are recessed due to global economic factors such as a strong dollar overseas, low oil prices that drive down the price of manufacturing plastic, and overproduction of steel in Asia. Technology is available for processing facilities that can decrease contamination and increase recovery of glass, but it requires a capital investment. Few single stream processors are willing to take on that cost when markets are deflated, and they are having to pay to sort and dispose of items incorrectly placed in curbside recycling bins.
There are viable markets for recycled glass in Georgia; it is used as feed stock for bottles and jars, or made into fiberglass. Recycling glass containers helps protect natural resources, helps Georgia’s economy, and diverts material from landfills. So it’s a good thing to recycle glass, but it’s best not to include it in the curbside bin.
Tips for curbside recycling: Unfortunately, people often place inappropriate items in the curbside recycling bin, and sorting facilities have to remove by hand a lot of materials that could damage the single stream equipment, such as rope, garden hoses, plastic toys, food, textiles, metal pipes, and even needles. Never put these items in your curbside recycling bin.