- The newly formed U.S. Glass Recycling Coalition—co-founded by the Glass Packaging Institute, Diageo, and New Belgium Brewing—has announced partnerships with more than 20 companies from multiple industries. Members include Waste Management, Republic Services, Sims Municipal Recycling, Pratt Industries, Strategic Materials Inc., the National Waste and Recycling Association, the North American Insulation Manufacturing Association, Heineken USA, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and many more.
- Recycled glass is preferable to manufacturers because it uses less energy than virgin material and saves money, but the supply isn't keeping up with their demand. The national diversion rate for glass is as low as 25%-30%, according to Diageo, and the EPA has confirmed that recycling capacity exceeds the current supply.
- The coalition held its first meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 21 and will be working with companies throughout the supply chain to increase the amount of available recycled glass and fiberglass.
Glass recycling has been having a tough run. While glass packaging has a higher diversion rate than plastic, it still falls behind aluminum, steel and paper. The material's weight makes it more expensive to transport, and it can also wear down recycling equipment and cause hazards to employees that are sorting the commodity. As municipalities move to single-stream recycling it has become more complicated to extract the glass.
For these reasons, a number of cities have experimented with suspending their glass recycling programs. Birmingham wasn't collecting the material until recently, and Houston recently announced it would no longer accept glass for curbside pick-up. Some residents see this as ironic since Strategic Materials Inc., one of the leading glass recyclers in North America, has its headquarters in the city. A local third-grader has been receiving a lot of media attention for his efforts to continue collecting glass in residential areas.
However, businesses in Quebec, Denver and Cincinnati have had success with dedicated glass recycling facilities. Two MRFs in North Carolina, which will install new equipment to sort glass at the front-end rather than the back-end, have also been cited as good examples of what can be done.
Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing’s assistant director of sustainability, told Environmental Leader that it's in the best interest of all companies to make glass recycling work.
"In the future, with material shortages due to climate change issues and resource scarcity, using a finite resource that is endlessly recyclable is a smart, long-term business solution," said Wallace.