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Starting last August, Ohio kicked off a one-year recycling pilot program to recover glass bottles from bars and restaurants. After collection, some of the glass will go to local glass manufacturer O-I for use in the production of new containers.
Study Shows Need for More Glass Recycling
The drive behind this initiative is a 2011 study conducted for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which found that only about one-tenth of the state’s glass containers were being recycled, leaving an estimated 90% of them headed for the landfill. The study results are timely, as in-state and nearby glass container manufacturers currently face a shortage of recovered glass. Ohio manufacturers were using 110,000 tons of recycled glass annually when they needed around 285,000 tons.
The study, which took shape through a glass stakeholders forum, also found a disconnect between the perceived and actual value of recovered glass markets. Glass was mostly going to the landfill as a result of an inefficient collection and processing system. The findings called for a solution that would target an efficient supply chain through an established network.
Five strategies were analyzed for recovering additional glass. Beverage container recycling refund programs were found to have the potential to bring in by far the most recovered glass (nearly 240,000 tons). Other strategies included expanding the curbside collection program and implementing a glass recycling program for bars and restaurants, which would bring in an estimated 53,000 new tons of recycled glass.
Grant Funds Pilot Scheme
Study findings resulted in an ongoing initiative dubbed the “Glass Act,” through which the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with industry leaders to develop demonstration projects in nine regions where they have set up Glass Act transfer stations sites that are linked to processors. The Ohio EPA is also funding up to $1 million in grants to start and/or expand glass container recycling in bars, restaurants and hotels in Ohio.
The grants can be used for indoor and outdoor collection containers for bars, restaurants and hotels, as well as collection vehicles and “collaborations” to improve route densities. The Ohio EPA will also provide seed money for two years to start a statewide education campaign to encourage glass bottle recycling.
Initiative Kicks Off in Columbus
In Columbus, where curbside recycling (including glass) is already in place, the city’s bars and restaurants have had to fend for themselves. Now they can participate in the Glass Act program at no charge, thanks to the Ohio EPA grant. Businesses have also been provided with as many recycling carts as they need, along with collection three times a week.
Columbus is hoping that bars and restaurants will see the value and eventually join together to pay for collection costs, which would amount to about $200 a year per business—a small fee compared to collection costs for transfer to the landfill.
The Glass Packaging Institute and our industry members are hopeful that this is the start of a trend. Glass container manufacturers in other states are in need of more recycled glass to improve the economic and energy efficiency of their plants. The GPI encourages this model of collaboration that’s good for businesses—and consumers—all around.
Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.