Clear Expectations Established for Glass Recycling in 2016
Targeted, local efforts strive to improve glass quality during processing.
The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) and its member companies are engaged in collaborative efforts with other stakeholders to improve glass recycling in 2016. This includes targeted, local efforts to improve glass quality during processing and the development of a three-mix glass specification, or “spec,” for materials recovery facilities (MRFs).
Improved Glass Recycling in Raleigh, N.C.
In December 2015, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced that the Sonoco Recycling facility in Raleigh had been awarded $40,000 through a Recycling Business Development grant for equipment to assist in cleaning and sorting glass at its facility. GPI, which hopes to provide support for these efforts, toured the facility early in 2016 to get an up-close look at existing and planned improvements for glass recovery.
Sonoco’s Raleigh facility is the state’s largest MRF and processes recycled glass, fibers, metals, aluminum, and plastic for various end markets. The MRF annually handles about 30,000 tons of container glass recovered through single-stream collection programs in Raleigh and the greater “triangle” area.
Sonoco has already made significant investments in its Raleigh plant to improve glass sorting and cleaning, and this grant will provide additional funds to enhance those efforts. Specifically, the grant will support retrieving recycled glass much earlier during the recovery process, from off the container line, helping to limit its exposure to contaminants. This will improve the quality of the recovered glass, as well as other recycled materials. It also reduces the volume of materials going to landfills.
The glass container industry operates three manufacturing plants in North Carolina, each producing millions of beer bottles each day using recycled glass as a critical component of the manufacturing “batch” mix. The state is also home to three facilities that process glass containers recovered for recycling, providing ready outlets for the recycled glass heading out of the Sonoco MRF.
Establishing a Glass Recovery Specification
With the exception of glass, all major recycled commodities have established specifications through the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) for their recycled material as it leaves the MRF and goes to a secondary processor. GPI and the glass container industry are at work with ISRI to develop a voluntary spec for recycled glass exiting MRFs.
The creation of an authoritative glass specification for MRFs will establish clear expectations regarding required quality. Recycled glass that achieves the spec under development increases the likelihood that it will be purchased by a manufacturing-based end market, such as glass container manufacturing or fiberglass. The voluntary specification may also be adopted into agreements and contracts between communities and recycling companies, helping to establish a broad-based standard for the glass industry.
While ISRI already publishes guidance on recycled glass cullet, denoting size, contamination concerns, and colors currently required for purchase by the glass container industry, this new glass spec will put recycled glass on more equal footing with other recovered commodities. ISRI has established specs, as well as industry arbitration guidelines, for nearly a dozen types of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, such as paper, plastic and the electronics (e-scrap) commodities. GPI expects to have this spec adopted and available for industry use in the first half of 2016.
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.