The Denver Post
Momentum Recycling, Alpine Waste see opportunity in shattered bottles, bailed Styrofoam
John Lair rattles a plastic bag full of broken glass.
There are bits of plastic, paper labels and chunks of food mixed in with the green, amber and clear — or flint — shards.
“And this is pretty clean,” he said of the glass-recycling sample from Waste Management’s materials recovery facility on Franklin Street. “Still, it takes a lot of work to clean this up.”
That dirty glass, which crumbles into unusable sand as it moves from single-stream bins to recovery facilities, is the bane of recyclers.
Glass tears up sorting machinery. As it crumbles, it becomes even more difficult to clean and sort. It costs big money to move glass around, unlike a bale of paper, plastic or aluminum. Any bit of contaminant — food, paper, pebbles, a chip of ceramic — can ruin a bottlemaker’s batch of glass.
The quiet secret in the recycling world is that beer and beverage bottles tossed into the recycling bin don’t actually get another life — as aluminum, paper and plastic do. Most recycled glass travels from bins to facilities to landfills, where it serves as a sort of heavy blanket atop trash heaps.
In an industry struggling with a sustained drop in commodity prices, cheap oil that makes new materials often less expensive than recycled paper, plastic or aluminum, and a slowing Chinese economy that is consuming less of this country’s recycled raw material, troublesome glass is yet another burden on stressed recyclers.
Lair has a plan to help alleviate that pressure.