I decided to look back this year to see what the most popular stories for 2016 were. Unfortunately, the Black Warrior River in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa, Alabama area had a tough year. Another top story for the year was glass, glass recycling that is. When I sent the newsletter out with the top stories, I asked for people to share theirs. We were honored to hear from two recycling leaders in Atlanta. Many thanks to Laura Turner Seydel and Gloria Hardegree for their thoughts on the top story of 2016.
Briefly, there ARE PLENTIFUL MARKETS for recycled glass in Georgia; we have 2 bottle to bottle manufacturers and 3 fiberglass insulation manufacturers in the state vying for these materials. The issues are in the collection of the material and keeping it clean in a mixed (single stream) collection system; another associated issue is the processing facilities (with a few newer or upgraded exceptions) that sort the materials are generally not equipped operationally or financially to handle packaging that has evolved greatly over 10 years (light weighting of aluminum and plastic containers, less paper due to digital, and more flexible film packaging than ever, as a few examples). The third issue is the recycling markets overall have been recessed for 2 years due to domestic and global economic conditions that are beyond the control of the industry. So with high contamination and low pricing, the mixed recycling processors are bearing the financial burden and are reluctant to invest in better technology so they have eliminated glass in many cases from acceptance at their facilities. As a result, haulers have no choice but to pass along that lack of acceptance to its customers. That’s Recycling 101 as it stands now! Good news is that many markets showed improvement in 3rd Quarter 2016.
There are companies looking to invest in metro Atlanta to provide more drop off locations specifically for glass and as market financial conditions improve, we will likely see more investment in improved technology on the part of the processors—this will be driven mostly by municipal contracts requiring glass be accepted. Also, some smaller haulers are looking into doing separated glass collection from commercial entities (that could include multi-family especially when mixed-use is in the property equation). Further, the national Glass Recycling Coalition will be releasing a toolkit during Q1 of 2017 to assist recyclers and policy/decision makers in determining how to best handle glass in their communities. The most important message for consumers is to be vigilant about following the directions provided by their hauler or collector for what should go into bins or carts for every type of material or packaging. Glass drop off is becoming increasingly available in communities and we may eventually have varied options for recycling glass in GA.
— Gloria Hardegree, ED Georgia Recycling Coalition
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