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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Continuing Glass Dilemma

For the past two years the Zero Waste Zones Team has researched the best alternatives for used glass from foodservice operations.  Many challenges arose along the journey including separation by color, collection of separated glass, destinations for glass and low cost of producing new glass. 

Single-stream recycling was determined to NOT be an acceptable alternative.  Crushed glass in the separation process often ends up as shards and slivers contaminating both the paper and plastic recycling stream.  Expensive equipment repairs & maintenance caused by glass shards are common in single-stream sorting equipment.

Refer to the ZWZ Blog post, Single-Stream Controversy, for a synopsis on the Container Recycling Institute's December, 2009 white paper, Understanding economic and environmental impacts of single-stream collection systems.

In her article Glass Action (pgs 39 & 40) in The America's Quarterly, A Publication for the Foodservice &; Hospitality Industry, Janice Cha writes about how keeping glass out of the landfill takes effort and determination - but the move can pay off in lower waste collection fees.  

Heathman Lodge
In the article, Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, WA  developed a dual-stream system with separated glass that makes good business sense for their operations.  Thanks to Scott Gix's, Sustainability Director & Restaurant Manager, persistence and determination Waste Connections started a glass collection and recycling program.  Nearly two years into the program, Heathman Lodge is diverting 260,000 lbs of glass annually from the landfill, which results in an approximate $7,500 annual trash hauling savings.

Cullet - crushed glass
In another innovative program, Whitney & Michael Allen of Willoughby, OH, owners of  two area bars, purchased Glasshopper bottle crushers to reduce bar glass volume by 80% with reduced waste hauling fees to less than a quarter of pre-program billings.  Glasshoppers crush the glass on-site into cullett in a well-insulated, stainless steel  machine.  The Allens partner with a local  artisan who collects the cullet weekly to make unique, beautiful flooring material.

Thank you Janice for your inspiring article - it is pioneers like
Scott Gix and the Allens who are changing the landscape of options available for used glass from foodservice operations.

On another note, new avenues are opening in the glass recycling arena as this post is written.  Stay tuned for more tales from the journey and new glass recycling options.

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