Trade Resources Industry Views Albany County's Recycling Community Is up Against The Glass

Albany County's Recycling Community Is up Against The Glass

Albany County’s recycling community is up against the glass.

On Nov. 1, Ark Regional Services discontinued its glass recycling services, leaving the county without a means for recycling glass.

But that hasn’t stopped many Albany County residents and area waste management professionals from trying to come up with a way to ensure the county’s glass is recycled rather than dumped into the city’s landfill, said Nicole Korfanta, Associate Director of the University of Wyoming Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and UW Sustainability Committee co-chair.

“When the Ark stopped accepting glass on Nov. 1, there was a lot of community conversation,” Korfanta said. “We were hearing about a lot of concerns that the public had. There’s a real desire to see glass recycling come back.”

About 50 residents attended a Laramie Glass Recycling Forum on Tuesday evening at the Laramie Plains Civic Center Gryphon Theatre, an event organized by the UW Sustainability Committee.

Attendees heard from five panelists about the challenges associated with glass recycling, including Bill Vance, Ark Recycling Services coordinator; Brooks Webb, city of Laramie solid waste manager; Tod Scott, UW Custodial Service manager; Steve Dures, Waste Management Inc. senior recycling and organics manager; and Mark Diggins and Ryan Schneider of Miller-Coors in Wheatridge, Colo.

The audience asked questions and offered numerous suggestions aimed at creating a viable community glass recycling system.

Vance said Ark used to collect roughly 19 tons of glass a month from the Laramie community, which was freighted to MillerCoors in Denver.

The MillerCoors plant would then convert used glass to bottles.

Vance estimated Ark was losing $10,000-$15,000 a year with its glass services.

Freight accounted for the majority of overhead, he said.

MillerCoors reimbursed Ark $55 per ton of sorted, colored glass (clear glass and mixed stream glass receives a lesser reimbursement), and shipping cost about $25 per ton.

With salaries, fuel, collection, crushing, storage containers, equipment and more, Ark could no longer afford to subsidize recycling, Vance said.

In an October letter to the editor, Shirley Pratt, Ark President and CEO, said the nonprofit lost about $35 for each ton of glass recycled.

 Webb said the city doesn’t accept glass in recycling containers because it contaminates the rest of the single-stream items — that is, all other recycled items commingled.

During the single-stream compaction process, glass is crushed into fine fibers, Webb said. The glass fibers mix with other recycled goods, such as paper and cardboard, ruining the load.

Webb said the city has a small task force working on recommendations for recycling glass, and the task force would be submitting recommendations to City Manager Janine Jordan and City Council in three-and-a-half weeks.

He would take ideas from the forum into account while making recommendations, Webb said.

During the forum’s final hour, the audience asked questions and offered several suggestions for glass recycling, including:

— A surtax on residents’ utility bills

— A check box for donations on residents’ utility bills

— Applying additional fees for glass to municipal dump fees

— Storing glass in a bunker to load it on a rail car and ship it to recycling facilities

— Using the glass to manufacture concrete at Mountain Cement Company south of Laramie

— Increase the city recycling fee to cover the cost of glass

— Store glass and use it for an underlayment layer when the city builds its next landfill.

— Place a promotional magnet on recycling bins for residents to donate to the glass recycling program

Korfanta said the UW Sustainability Committee would share the forum’s summary with city decision makers and stakeholders.

Another glass forum could be convened if needed to help further the discussion, Korfanta said.

“I think that once you start a recycling program in town, people get used to having that opportunity and it doesn’t feel right to them anymore to throw something away,” she said. “It’s almost a visceral reaction that it doesn’t feel right to throw a wine bottle in your trash can when you’ve been recycling before. I think that’s a really important gut feeling, but we also have to think analytically about the other things we throw away. Glass is inert. We don’t want to fill up our landfill space with glass.”

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