The Myth About Color Sorting Glass for Recycling


I don’t live in Oregon but I am very interested in glass recycling.  Oregon, like most states, is having a difficult time recycling its container glass products.    In a recent article appearing  in the The Register Guard, a Eugene area newspaper,  ‘Recycled’ at the Landfill, this point was made clear.  What stood out for me in the article, was the popular belief among residents, politicians, recycling professionals and even glass manufactures, that discarded glass products can only be recycled into new glass products if they are first separated by color.   This attitude is not unique to Oregon.  It is shared across the country and, in fact, the world.

Enter a new technology developed by Green Mountain Glass, LLC.  GMG’s technology has been available for several years.  It eliminates the need to color-separate glass before recycling.  This technology allows glass manufacturers to use multiple-colors of broken glass to make a specific color bottle.  For no good reason, glass manufacturers have resisted GMG’s technology, believing that they can only recycle glass that is the same color as the glass bottle they are producing; brown with brown, green with green, etc.  In states like Oregon, where deposits are taken at the purchase of each bottle—the so-called “bottle-bill states”—it is easier for the waste management and recycling companies to accommodate the manufacturers’ requirements for single-color recyclable glass or cullet.  But as more and more municipalities have gone over to collecting all their recyclables curbside and in one container – called “single-stream recycling”—color separation has become much more difficult as bottles and other glass products break during collection.  As pointed out in the Register-Guard article, even in bottle-bill states, an enormous amount of the glass collected today ends up in local landfills where municipalities (i.e., the taxpayers) pay a tipping fee to dispose of this waste.  It the glass manufacturers were to adopt the GMG technology, they could increase their use of recycled glass and eliminate the cost of putting this waste glass into landfills.

The benefits to recycling glass are enormous.  Use of recycled glass in bottle production reduces raw material costs, requires less energy to melt, and lowers carbon and noxious gas emissions at the glass plant.  Recapturing and recycling the hundreds of thousands of tons of cullet that currently ends up in landfills is a win-win-win situation for the glass manufacturers, the recyclers and the taxpayers.

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