Glass Works: Dedicated Glass Container Recycling Produces Results
Since 2012, Ripple Glass has used a recycling system that is both old-school and new for container glass recovery.
About 80% of the U.S. population has access to single-stream curbside recycling collection, which is accompanied by issues of contamination and often ineffective recovery, especially for glass containers. Some alternative recycling systems are in place, however. Where feasible, many of these systems are showing impressive results for high-quality, efficient closed-loop glass recycling.
One example is a company that is finding remarkable success by focusing solely on glass container recycling. Since 2012, Kansas City, Mo.-based Ripple Glass has used a recycling system that is both old-school and new for container glass recovery.
Motivated by a Lost Opportunity
In 2009, to the dismay of the local brewer Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas citizens threw away 150 million lbsof glass bottles and jars, all lost to landfills. This included some 10 million empty Boulevard bottles. At the same time, area businesses were using nearly 200 million lbs of recycled glass every year in the manufacture of new products.
It was difficult to recycle glass bottles because there was no effective collection system or facility nearby to process the glass and prepare it for a manufacturer. With the support of local companies and community organizations, Boulevard created Ripple Glass and constructed a state-of-the-art glass processing facility, placing dedicated glass recycling depots throughout the metro area to supply the operation.
The recovered glass is now used in the manufacture of fiberglass insulation and to make new glass bottles at manufacturing plants in Missouri and Oklahoma, including those used by Boulevard. The initiative has spread—like a ripple effect.
Glass Collection and Processing
Ripple Glass establishes partnerships with municipalities to site large drop-off depots to recycle amber, green, blue, and clear glass food and beverage containers. The company then reaches out to local businesses and residents to inform them of the glass recycling services available, and provides bins for recycling. Businesses take bins to regionally located drop-off locations, which are collected on a regular schedule and delivered to the Ripple Glass processing plant. There, the recovered glass is separated by color, cleaned as needed, and sold to end markets.
Over 200 businesses currently participate, and several municipalities have dedicated areas for drop-off depots. The glass recycling collection points now stretch out nearly 300 miles from their processing facility, demonstrating the value of the glass collected—and the value of glass container recycling to residents and businesses.
Strong Results Create a Win-Win
From the onset, Ripple Glass understood the challenges of sorting and processing glass from other recyclables. As glass breaks down and often degrades during the typical single-stream recovery process, it can become unusable to closed-loop end markets. The Ripple approach maximizes the value of the glass collected.
The processing operation employs screens, magnets, dryers, organic separation, and optical sorting and crushing equipment, focusing on a cleaner stream of material while reducing wear and tear on the equipment. The facility processes nearly 3,300 tons of glass per month, with expected totals for 2015 to reach about 38,000 tons.
Ripple’s efforts have resulted in an average recovery rate of 98% of recycled glass collected, which is unmatched in local and state recycling programs around the country. By eliminating the need to sort glass from other recyclables, the cost to dispose of any unusable materials at the landfill is also greatly reduced. In addition, end-market glass manufacturers receive a clean stream of recycled glass to feed their furnaces, helping to reduce energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions while reducing costs and helping the environment.
For more information, visit www.GPI.org.
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.