Why Glass Recycling is Great
by Nayethzi Hernandez, SLCgreen intern, and Sophia Nicholas
With all the news of recycling markets changing, as we discussed in our previous post, it’s more important than ever to practice Reducing, Reusing, Refusing (single-use products) and Recycling Right.
So it’s worth thinking about how we as consumers can make a difference and shift our habits to consume different products with less packaging and more recycling-friendly materials.
That’s why we’re excited to talk about glass!
In Utah, we’re fortunate to have a local glass recycling facility, Momentum Recycling. In Salt Lake City, you can participate by signing up for curbside pickup! You can also take your glass to a convenient drop-off location.
With nearly 5,600 subscribed households, 78 active drop-off areas, and dozens of businesses participating in glass recycling, the Salt Lake City community is already headed in a very sustainable direction.
This is great news because by participating in glass recycling we’re helping Utah’s environment and our economy.
That’s because when we choose to recycle instead of sending our waste to a landfill, it contributes to the employment of 8-10 workers in a processing plant compared to the one job position that would be needed in a landfill.
Furthermore, because glass is processed locally and not overseas, it’s contributing to even more Utah jobs. This closed loop product life-cycle means a lot of good things for our state. By recycling we’re able to support businesses based in Utah which in turn creates jobs and a greater influx of revenue for the state’s economy.
On top of all of that, glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle! It can basically be recycled forever, while consuming 40% less energy to produce bottles from recycled glass bottles. Virgin glass is made from sand, soda ash, and limestone—all of which must be mined from the earth and heated to very hot temperatures. This is a resource-intensive process which increases our carbon emissions, while also releasing other toxic materials like arsenic, lead, and uranium into the environment.
Recycling that glass, on the other hand, can be done over and over and the glass still maintains its structural integrity without devaluation. Glass recycling is sustainable both environmentally and economically.
Because we have a local facility, it also means the transportation costs and associated carbon footprint of shipping glass is lower. Your bottle of olive oil, placed in the curbside silver bin or taken to a Momentum drop-off location, is processed at their facility in Salt Lake City near I-215!
Once fully processed, the recycling by-product (glass cullet) is likely to become raw material for fiberglass insulation, much of which is fabricated in Nephi, Utah. Your recycled glass can also be turned into ingredients for concrete and asphalt, kitchen countertops, or new glass bottles.
Finally, consuming products from glass is healthier. You don’t have to worry about BPA from cans or plastic contaminating your favorite foods or beverages.
So—are you ready to recycle your glass? Great!
One last reminder: In Salt Lake City, we have a somewhat unique system to help capture the most valuable material possible. Glass recycling is “single-stream” in our community meaning it must be kept separate from what you put into your blue curbside mixed recycling container.
When recycling materials of any sort are sold to a buyer there is the concern of contamination. As the recycled materials will be used to create post-consumer products, a buyer will want to make sure that what they’re purchasing is of high quality. Then those materials can go on to become your new notebook or water bottle!
However, if we mix glass into our recycling bins, shards of glass can become embedded in other recyclables like paper and cardboard. This essentially makes both the glass and other recyclable material unrecyclable due to the high level of contamination. So while placing glass in our standard recycling bins may be well-intended, it causes more harm than good and can ultimately equate to more material in our local landfills.
Try glass recycling by getting a bin or finding a drop-off location near you!