Glass gets special attention at Glenwood recycle center
South Canyon glass recycling
• Glass beverage containers (including all colors of beer, wine and liquor bottles)
• Drinking glasses (including wine glasses)
• Jars and containers
• Ceramic cups or dishes
• Pyrex or cookware
• Mirrors, windows, light bulbs
• Plastic bags or trash
Glenwood Springs recyclers are now helping to feed a Front Range venture that has worked for the past year to ensure more glass is actually recycled, rather than ending up in a landfill.
Earlier this week, a new glass-only bin showed up at the city’s South Canyon Landfill recycling drop-off center.
Instead of tossing glass in with the commingled aluminum, tin and plastic, recycle center users are being directed to keep the glass separate and use the new Clear Intentions bin located nearby for all those glass bottles and jars.
Clear Intentions is a Denver-based company that started in 2015 with a specific focus on glass recycling and making sure that every piece of glass is in fact recycled, reused or repurposed in some way.
Landfill Manager King Lloyd and Parker Jones, the on-site recycle technician at the facility, have been working with Carbondale recycling advocate Julia Farwell to make it happen.
Farwell is a Colorado Mountain College sustainability studies student, Carbondale Environmental Board and Colorado Association for Recycling member who is part of the Valley Resource Management group along with Lloyd.
Two years ago, she met Clear Intentions founder Brittany Evans at a CAR conference and learned about her startup business focused on glass recycling and creating new markets for recycled glass products.
“Less than 17 percent of glass in Colorado actually gets recycled,” Farwell noted.
So-called “single-stream” recycling, where all commingled products are collected in one big container and sorted at a special materials recovery facility has made recycling convenient, she said. But the glass ends up in pieces and often contaminates the other materials so that they can’t be properly recycled. The glass is also hard on the conveyor belts and other equipment used at the MRFs.
When collected, sorted, recycled and repurposed by itself, though, glass has a lot more uses than other recycled materials, Farwell said.
At that same conference, she also spoke with representatives from Rocky Mountain Bottling Co., which is looking for more recycled glass to make new bottles.
“Glass doesn’t lose its integrity over time, like plastic and some other products,” she said. “An environmental benefit to using recycled glass is that it melts at lower temperature compared to raw material, and is cheaper for making new bottles.”
By collecting glass separately, not only bottles and jars can be recycled but drinking glasses can be included in the mix. That’s not the case with commingled collection facilities, whether at recycling centers or curbside services, Farwell said.
Clear Intentions is also able to restore any bottles that are still intact and make them reusable for different purposes, she said. The broken glass can also be separated by color and sold separately for various uses.
For the city’s landfill and recycling facility, which already struggles to operate at break-even, the new glass collection method actually saves money, Lloyd and Jones said.
“We’re not trying to make recycling more difficult,” Jones said. “We just need to take advantage of every option the industry offers to keep our costs down.”
The benefit comes in lowering some of the handling fees for the commingled product, because less sorting is required.
Lloyd said that about 80 percent of what ended up in the commingled bins was glass. With curbside, single-stream services, he said that about 20 to 30 percent of what’s intended to be recycled can end up in the landfill due to contamination. The drop-off center, especially now with the separate glass collection, has a much higher recycling rate.
“We need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along in this changing world to repurpose and recycle,” Lloyd said. “And it’s keeping our operating costs down.”
On a broader scale, it’s a form of economic development, Jones added.
“The glass we’re collecting here goes directly to Colorado glass processors,” he said.. “Some glass is back on the retail shelf within 90 days.”
The South Canyon Landfill and Aspen/Pitkin County’s Rio Grande collection center are the only two locations in the Roaring Fork Valley now collecting glass separately. But Farwell is working to change that.
Anyone who has curbside service but wants to help out should hold onto glass product separately and bring it up to the landfill, she said.