Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Future of Glass Recycling

I had a recent experience that made me question the future of glass recycling. We have curbside recycling at our home, but I try to recycle when we're away as well, so occasionally I'll drive my glass, paper, cans, etc. to the local recycling plant.

On my last visit, I discovered that glass is no longer accepted. They said there wasn't a market to sell it to anymore so they had to stop. The local paper, The Wenatchee World, reported that not only were they no longer recycling the glass, but they hadn't been for a long time - they had been quietly dumping it with the rest of the trash. I'm so glad I was driving my recyclables to them so they could throw them in the dump.
The problem is that, we've gotten to be so good at recycling that the supply is surpassing the demand. The work involved in recycling glass back into its raw state is expensive. I get that, but does that mean that we should just throw it all into a landfill?

I think the idea might be radical in the United States, but I would like to see reusable bottles. I first heard about this long ago on the Heineken brewery tour in Amsterdam - back then the brewery was a must-see for all studying-abroad students because of the free beer at the end, but I digress. They had a 99% return rate on bottles - basically, everyone did it because the bottles were sold with a cash deposit that would make it much more expensive to buy brand-new bottles.

I don't know of any companies doing this right now, but I'm going to write a few local ones and see what response I get back. It can't hurt to ask...

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