UPDATE: After months of backlash following Houston's decision to eliminate glass recycling from its contract with Waste Management, a new plan has been put in place to help residents recycle the commodity. On Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a partnership with Strategic Materials that will add 10 new glass drop-off locations across the city.
"Right now we’re under a two-year contract with Waste Management, but between now and the end of this contract period we’ll be working on a robust recycling program that will be better than before," said Turner, as reported in Houstonia.
Two locations have already been announced -- one at the Sharpstown Community Center and one at a local Salvation Army. The eight other locations will be announced in the next few weeks.
- Glass recyclers are fighting back at Houston after the city announced and approved a new recycling contract with Waste Management that eliminates curbside glass recycling. Waste Management stated that glass will still be collected and recycled, but only through drop-off centers.
- Glass processing company Strategic Materials told Resource Recycling that it was "days away" from singing a deal that would have allowed an $8 million optical sortation unit to be installed in Houston, which would have opened the doors for glass recycling in the city.
- The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) told Resource Recycling that eliminating curbside glass recycling due to a temporary market change was "a bad precedent to set." GPI predicts that the decision will have a significantly negative effect on the city's recycling rate.
There's no denying that recycling has hurt many players in the market, especially Waste Management. When working through contract options with Houston, Waste Management CEO David Steiner said in an email to the Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund that the company had been losing $1,000,000 on the prior recycling contract.
Glass recycling specifically has been called the "scourge of recycling," with many believing that money cannot be made off of the commodity. Some cities have even been sending their glass "recycling" to landfills because their equipment is not capable of processing it.
However there are many advocates of glass recycling that believe the process can be profitable. In November, Cincinnati, OH-based Rumpke Waste and Recycling told Waste Dive that successfully recycling the material just depends on the community you're working with.
"What you need to do is go to the end market first. Find out who will take glass in your region and determine what quality they will take before you start a program. You have to know what to collect and how to handle it. Some [clients] may need color separated; others take mixed," said Steve Sargent, Rumpke’s director of recycling.
GPI agrees that recycling glass is equally as important as recycling any other material. "We think providing glass recycling is an investment that most communities will want to make when faced with the alternative of sending this 100% recyclable materials to the landfill," GPI said to Resource Recycling.
"If the City of Houston isn't committed to recycling, then we're not going to spend the money," Curt Bucey, executive vice president of Strategic Materials, told Resource Recycling. "We [will] save our $8 million now."