It was a long overdue, market-driven refinement to Greensboro’s recycling program when the city decided to eliminate glass. It was the right decision.
I have advocated the exclusion of glass from commingled, curbside recycling programs for many years, even when I was managing the Greensboro program in the 1990s. While this attitude may have earned me the title of heretic among a few of my more zealous recycling associates, I am unapologetic about being pragmatic in light of the facts.
Glass is an inert material made from sand and limestone, so it poses no toxicity dangers when disposed in landfills. Broken glass takes up very little room in landfills, so it doesn’t contribute significantly to the fill rate. Broken glass wears on recycling equipment, causing downtime and additional maintenance expense and it contaminates other recycling commodities making them less valuable. Consequently, processing glass is an expense, not a revenue, for most recycling programs.
The inclusion of glass, one of the heaviest parts of the recycling stream, provides a huge boost to weight-based recycling goals.
Maybe our goals and resources should be directed toward more environmentally problematic parts of the waste stream instead.