John Danner, SWMD director for Greene County, helps a patron load their recycling onto a conveyor. Early in June, Republic informed the district that beginning July 1, glass would no longer be accepted.
By Kristen Inman
Many who drop their recyclable materials off at the Solid Waste Management District in Switz City may have spotted a cardboard sign: “AS of 7-1-18 NO more glass.”
According to Greene County SWMD Coordinator John Danner and representatives from Republic, this is true. Glass will no longer be accepted at any county recycling center effective July 1. This also includes the recycling center in Linton.
Kenny Depasse, who oversees governmental affairs for Republic Services of Indiana, explained that glass is a “sheer expense item” with few end-users, as well as a contaminant.
“First of all, glass is a sheer expense item to the program,” said Depasse. “There are no end results to recycling glass right now, and that does involve an expense. But the main reason is, it is such a contaminant to the paper and cardboard when it gets mixed into it. We’re having to clean up our material... the mills would like to see less than half a percent of contamination in recycled products, so that’s driving the need for us to remove glass from the program.”
A cardboard sign informs patrons at the Solid Waste Managment District in Switz City that glass will no longer be accepted July 1.
By Kristen Inman
Danner explained that Greene County’s SWMD is on contract with Republic Services and that all the recyclables they collect are transported to a single-stream recycling facility in Indianapolis which then sorts the recyclables. Early in June, Republic informed the district that beginning July 1, glass would no longer be accepted.
Although Danner said they did not receive an official explanation as to why at the time, he suspected “It’s down to dollars and cents. The markets are terribly low now. When your plastic is worth maybe nothing, maybe two bucks a ton, paper is three to five bucks a ton, cardboard is 35 bucks whereas a few years ago it was 150 bucks a ton--so glass was the first thing to go. So it’s going to go to the landfill, but at least glass eventually turns to sand.”
Depasse said the decision, which was made as a company, was driven by the end-markets like so many other decisions. “These conversations have been going on for many months, so it’s become a situation that needed immediate attention. In order to maintain the program, we have to make these changes as quick as possible, try to clean up the products we’re generating.”
Although China’s increased restrictions on recycled material imports from the US have been making national and local headlines lately, Depasse said that none of the materials from Greene County go to China anymore.
“They have cut off all imports of material at this point. We’re doing this to comply with the US mills,” said Depasse. When asked about the value of these items to Midwest end-users, Depasse said, “We’re having to stockpile a great deal of material right now to find end-users. Mixed paper is worth zero right now.”
Depasse noted that some centers have begun to implement a fee for processing of material, but Greene County aims to avoid that by cleaning up the material to keep operating costs low.
Other than the decision to discontinue accepting glass, “We’re trying not to make any changes than absolutely necessary to the program,” said Depasse.
Depasse wanted to thank Greene County Commissioners and Linton Mayor John Wilkes, among many others, for their cooperation.
“[They] have been super helpful about trying to help us work as partners to keep those programs going, so I want to thank them for all their help in trying to make us as efficient as we could be.”
According to the University of Southern Indiana’s Recycling Facts, it can take more than 4,000 years for a modern glass bottle to decompose, and it takes longer if the glass ends up in a landfill. Other estimates claim it can take a glass bottle around a million years to break down. According to the Indiana Recycling Coalition, glass is also “infinitely reusable”. If you would like to continue to recycle glass bottles, some nearby recycling centers such as ISU Recycling Center may accept glass. Some solid Waste Districts in surrounding counties accept glass, but individuals should contact those centers beforehand to determine whether or not they will accept recyclables from non-residents.
There are also ways of keeping glass bottles out of the landfills altogether. There is a wealth of tutorials and ideas online for ways to “upcycle” or repurpose glass bottles and other glass items.
Despite the lack of end-users for recycled products in general, Depasse encourages people in Greene County and elsewhere to “keep on recycling” and to ensure that the commodities are as clean as possible when they are donated.