Friday, October 2, 2009

Does your recycled glass really end up in the landfill?

The answer to that question is no, but the headline of a story in this week’s FastForward may lead you to believe that The City of Calgary is dumping recycled glass directly into city landfills. While the glass is being stored at the East Calgary landfill, it’s certainly not ending up in the same place as the rest of Calgary’s garbage.

“While the complex is called the East Calgary Landfill, the storage area for the glass is completely separate from the area that The City uses for waste,” says Paula Magdich, program development leader for The City’s Blue Cart program. “The site contains a number of other facilities, including a composting area, offices and the storage pad for the processed glass, which was initially used to store all of the blue carts before they were distributed to Calgarians.”

The City is stockpiling the glass as a result of a downturn in the global economy and a reduced demand for the type of glass that The City’s materials recycling facility is producing.

“Just like any other commodity, recycled glass is subject to the laws of supply and demand,” says Magdich. “If you had asked us a couple of years ago what type of recyclable materials we’d be most concerned about finding a market for, the answer would have been plastics. With a change in the markets, plastic is no longer a concern, so The City believes that the recycled glass should be no different.”

Glass is about 5 per cent of the recycled materials collected by The City, with paper and plastics making up the bulk of material. The City’s recycled paper and plastic materials both currently have markets for reuse.

The City is currently working with METRO Waste Paper Recovery, who own and operate the recycling processing facility, to find ways of improving the quality of recycled glass and are also attempting to find other suitable markets and uses for the recycled glass.

The City’s Waste & Recycling department preparing to issue an expression of interest for companies to use the recycled glass, as well as working with the Roads department to investigate whether glass could be used as an aggregate replacement, which is being done elsewhere in North America such as Spokane and Washington, DC.

In the meantime, The City will continue to stockpile the recycled glass, like many other major municipalities in North America (including Edmonton) while continuing to look for viable markets and options for the glass.

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