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Glass Recycling: Providing Possibility

by Tera Clausen

There is no such thing as away when it comes to waste. It is out of sight out of mind, but it is never truly gone. When things are thrown away, they go to a landfill to pile up in a heap. Some of the items will eventually break down, while many others will not. The reality of the trash heap can be summed up in a word: hopelessness. It is the end of the road, and the possibilities of re-creation and re-purposing are gone. However, recycling brings back possibility.

As the newest intern at SLC Green, my first official order of business was to tour some of the recycling facilities for Salt Lake City. This tour was a front row seat to possibility. One of the stops for the SLCgreen crew was Momentum Recycling. Momentum was founded in 2008, and in 2012 became the exclusive glass recycler for Salt Lake City.

In 2012, Momentum was bringing in about 200 tons of recycled glass. In the past four years, since expanding their curbside services, they now bring in approximately 1,000 tons per month! I will be honest, it was overwhelming to see how many glass bottles were waiting to be sorted and recycled, but the beauty of possibilities also struck me. Instead of hopelessly ending in a landfill, these items could become something new and useful.

The process of glass recycling is fascinating:

  • Once the product arrives at the facility, it is sorted to get rid of any contaminants that might ruin the machines or compromise the final product.
  • It is then shattered and sorted.
  • The glass pieces go through a baking process that gets rid of other contaminants such as labels and residue.
  • Once the pieces are clean and dry, they are further sorted through a series of screens to produce different sizes of the final product – glass cullet. Glass cullet ranges in size, from tiny colorful pebbles to shiny specs of sand.
  • The possibilities for the glass cullet are huge. As you would expect, more glass bottles are made from glass cullet, but it can also be used for sandblasting, fiberglass manufacturing, and even as a filtration medium for swimming pools.

Aside from the exciting possibilities, why should we recycle glass?

  • Glass is 100% recyclable and can be endlessly recycled.
  • Glass cullet is economically better because it is cheaper for manufactures to purchase.
  • It is more energy efficient throughout the re-creation process.
  • It cuts down on mining for raw materials to create new glass.
  • Ultimately, it reduces the output of CO2.

Glass recycling is a win-win every step of the way!

Now that you are feeling empowered by the knowledge of possibility, perhaps you are wondering how you can take part in the glass recycling process (if you are not already). Salt Lake City residents have these options:

If you are new to recycling, or if you are interested in stepping up your recycling game, check out SLCgreen’s website for additional tips and tricks to becoming more environmentally friendly.

As a final thought, my visit to the recycling facilities gave me perspective of just how much is being disposed of, which was momentarily discouraging. As I mentioned before, reducing our waste should be the number one priority. However, it was encouraging to see the scope of the recycling operations we have here in Salt Lake City.

If you have ever felt like one bottle will not make a difference,  I want to provide you with a personal testament that, one-by-one, those bottles together create so much more. They create new products, new revenue streams, and new answers to the problem of waste.

Isn’t that what recycling’s all about? Instead of away, let’s create possibility.

 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Rosemary Washington #

    What a nice article, Tera! Thank you for succinctly and intelligently giving us bullet points on the benefits and process of recycling glass. This was thoughtful and very well written. Looks like SLC Green has a great new intern! Best of luck to you.

    September 28, 2016
    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Rosemary. It was my pleasure.

      September 30, 2016
  2. Bernice Allen #

    Great article! I loved learning about glass recycling 🙂

    September 30, 2016

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