Disposal is the critical
first stage of the genuine recycling process. It's the step taken by residents and
businesses who are the producers (or "generators") of glass waste; the folks -
you and I - who must take responsibility for directing the empties into the correct
recycling stream - the stream that avoids the landfill.
Improper disposal ends the
recycling attempt, regardless of the good intentions of the producer.
For political reasons, it
became popular to deposit waste glass into a single bin along with all other disposables -
metal, plastic, paper and cardboard. This "single stream" approach misled
generators to think their glass was being recycled. But it wasn't. The single stream
system is a failure for several reasons: the waste is too expensive to sort and separate;
the various products contaminate one another; and the glass routinely breaks during the
collection process, creating dangerous conditions for hand-sorters. People have been cut
badly by broken shards. Single stream waste from the familiar curbside bins doesn't get
recycled at all; it ends up in the landfills. Just garbage. And most programs don't inform
residents of this fact. Moreover, most city-sponsored "recycling" programs pay
the collection companies extra taxpayer dollars for a service not provided. But mum's the
The few companies who assure
sorting and distribution for re-use are engaged in a dangerous and financially losing
proposition. Sorting of commingled disposable products laced with glass shards is
cost-prohibitive for the collection business committed to real recycling. Those compnaies
have two choices: charge a fortune to sort and separate - or refuse collection of single
stream waste. Producers are reluctant to pay, so they just trash the glass assuring
its status as mixed garbage in overfilled "dumps."
So easy, casual disposal -
even in bins labelled "RECYCLING," is a losing proposition. It hasn't worked,
and will never work.
Assured recycling of waste
glass requirers producers to follow a set of rules. They take a little extra time and
focus. But many European countries and a number of US cities have established successful
programs proving it can be done. In some, the effort is purely voluntary. In others,
incentives and mandates have played a part. (See "Legislation")
The strictest curbside and
small business rules are pretty straightforward:
1. Glass bottles and jars
must be emptied and quik-rinsed after use, and metal caps, snap tabs and corks removed.
Labels can stay.
2. Awaiting collection, they
can be discarded in a single bin with separators for clear, amber and green glass.
3. The bin can be placed
curbside for pickup by the collection truck. It need not be covered. The colors will be
separated by the collectors.
4. Nothing else can be
deposited into the glass disposal bin. If it is collection will be refused.
5. Glass waste can not be
deposited into other bins intended for mixed-material disposables. It it is, collectors
will refuse pickup of the mixed disposables.
With a little practice, and
robust emphasis among family and/or business staff members of its importance, it quickly
become routine. The task can vary with the collection company's practices. Most will
supply you with the appropriate bins; some will not require color sorting; some may
require covering outside, etc. The efficient system requires a cooperative partnership
between customer and collection company