Environment

Recycling Revolution: No More Glass in the Bin

Some recyclers are no longer taking glass, and soon pretty much all of them will ban it. We explain why, and what you should do if you want to keep recycling your glass.


For a generation, we've been putting glass jars and bottles in our recycling bins. In fact, glass is probably the most recycIable material in our household trash.

Which is why we were surprised to learn that many recyclers are no longer accepting glass in single-stream recycling bins (that's where you throw everything that's not trash into one recycling container). It's already happening in Pittsburgh's South Hills neighborhoods, and experts say this ban on glass in recycling bins will soon come to your neighborhood. Sparkt found out why this is happening, and what you can do about it.

This "recycling revolution" has been caused by a sea change in the recycling business. In the 1990's, recycling haulers established single-stream recycling bins as the norm because they were easier for consumers to use than multiple "sorted" bins. That worked because recyclers were willing to sort it all out at a material recovery facility. Now that's becoming too expensive, and the companies who buy the raw materials are pickier. They want "clean" raw materials. In other words, they don't want shattered glass all over their paper, cans and plastic bottles, and they don't want glass contaminated by everything else.

"It's like scrambling an egg. You put all these materials into one one bin, that's scrambling the egg. Then you're asking someone to unscramble it which we know is impossible." Justin Stockdale, Executive Director, PRC

Justin Stockdale of the Pennsylvania Resources Council likes to show people the picture below to show what glass "scrambled" with other recyclables looks like.

Now that you can no longer put glass in your recycling bins, Justin's group is working with municipalities and other environmental groups to establish centralized drop off spots for glass, so stay tuned!

Also stay tuned for the second part of Spartk's investigation into the "recycling revolution." Here's a teaser: did you realize that most of the plastic household waste you throw into the bin isn't even being recycled? We'll explain why and what you can do about it.

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