Glass is a hard sell in the recycling world. Many cities are removing glass from the list of accepted materials in their curbside recycling programs. Without recycling, that leaves a limited number of options for discarded container glass. In some respects, Coeur d’Alene, ID is ahead of the curve on this issue. They’ve landfilled glass directly for nearly a decade.
North Idaho doesn’t have any glass recycling facilities, and shipping Coeur d’Alene’s containers elsewhere for recycling is too expensive. According to city officials, the closest recycling facilities are in Oregon or across the border in Canada. As a compromise, the city’s new waste hauler plans to crush the container glass it collects and use it as landfill cover. Curbside collection of glass is still off the table, but the waste hauler will place collection containers around the city where residents can deposit their containers.
Once the glass is crushed, it will be used as a daily cover for the city’s landfill, to cut down on odors, trap gases from decay, and discourage trash-scattering by the wind, rodents and birds. Some of the crushed glass could also be recycled, if the company can find a buyer and develop a transportation strategy. Crushed glass, known as cullet, could also make its way into paving materials as a replacement for potash.
A small, members-only recycling company in Coeur d’Alene takes containers and accepts donations from members. The company sorts and crushes the glass, and returns it to members, who use it in a variety of ways, including landscaping, artwork and construction. Currently, that group is limited by the size of their facility, and say that if they had more space, they could accept more of the city’s waste glass.
Spokane, WA is also among the growing number of US cities that is landfilling glass. The city, which switched to single-stream recycling in 2012, contracts with Waste Management to provide recycling services. The company says it can’t find enough interested buyers in waste glass to make a profit on the material.
In the past, Spokane has used pulverized glass in road construction, but the amount needed for those projects is far less than the city collects. So for now, the glass will be pulverized and used as landfill cover, while the city continues to look for more environmentally responsible outlets for container glass.
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Photo Credit: H. Kopp, via Flickr.com