In Georgia, for instance, Pratt Industries stopped accepting glass from DeKalb County’s curbside recycling program when it opened a new plant in September 2015. The company said it considered glass a contaminant in the stream, because the material damaged its equipment. The company later said it was developing a network of locations where consumers could drop off glass for recycling.
More recently, the city and county recycling agencies in Spartanburg, South Carolina, announced they would end a four year old glass recycling effort and no longer accept glass after March 1, 2016. Curbside collection was not the only thing affected by the change. Residents also will no longer be able to take glass to recycling centers. An official with the county said low prices for recycled glass was the reason for the change.
In other places, lack of consumer and business participation has made recycling glass difficult. The city of New Orleans reported that, of more than 4,000 addresses that were eligible to take part in a curbside glass recycling program it started in downtown neighborhoods in 2015, only 35 to 40 addresses actually participated.
The New Orleans launch included its French Quarter neighborhood, which is home to many bars and restaurants that generate significant quantities of container glass. That should have helped to make the effort cost-effective. However, under the contract that had been negotiated with the collection company, the low participation rates meant the city was paying an average of $123 per participant each month to pick up the glass. As a result, the city was questioning the program’s viability after just a few months.
Lynn Bragg, president of the Glass Packaging Institute in Arlington, Virginia, acknowledged glass recycling was facing challenges. “While recycled glass markets are strong and remain mostly price stable, increased contamination can make glass difficult and costly to process in single stream MRFs,” she said.