North Carolina Partnership Helps Boost Recycled Glass Quality
Results from a glass recycling initiative in North Carolina show promise.
The glass container industry is committed to engaging with stakeholders to improve the quantity and quality of recycled glass. Results from an initiative to do just that at two North Carolina materials recovery facilities (MRFs) are in and show promise in the investments made at both locations.
Partnering to Improve Quality
In 2016, in coordination with the North Carolina Recycling Business Assistance Center (RBAC) and with considerable investment by the Sonoco MRF in Raleigh and American Recycling outside of Asheville, GPI established MRF projects designed to improve glass handling. The RBAC recognized both MRFs as top candidates for funding when the applications came to the state, and reached out to GPI for complimentary funding so improvements to handling and sorting recycled glass could be made.
North Carolina is an ideal state for the industry to make such investments, as three glass container plants, as well as adequate glass processing facilities to further clean up the glass, exist. With the projects now complete, they have demonstrated a model for similar MRFs.
Upgrades and Results
The Sonoco MRF added a glass breaker screen, moved glass sorting equipment to the front of the line, and installed new screening equipment. Newer sorting equipment and placing glass sorting equipment at the beginning of the process proved key to capturing more glass, along with aluminum, paper, and plastic. Following are some key results:
- Glass capture increased by 8%; Sonoco is also capturing about 2% more of all other recyclables going through its sort lines and facilities
- Net savings of about $90,000 per ton compared to landfilling glass ($86 to transport and dispose per ton)
- Less wear on rubber discs and belts, along with reduced cross-contamination of multiple grades of paper and plastic
The American Recycling MRF replaced its glass breaker screen, installed an air-assisted glass screen and placed two outside bunkers for separated glass storage. Again, separation of glass from other materials, along with new sorting equipment (in this case, an air-assisted screen to forcefully remove glass from other recyclables and contaminants), has paid off:
- Glass captured from single stream collection has increased from 135 tons/month to 220, adding about 1,000 tons of recovered glass per year
- Savings of about $2,000 in landfill tip fees each month
- Higher prices for recovered glass and paper as a result of less overall contamination
This “first-of-its-kind” initiative for GPI has put a spotlight on cost-effective measures that MRFs can take to improve the quality and quantity of recovered glass, as well as other recycled materials. Next up is publicizing these results and replicable MRF adjustments that could be applied at other facilities. In the future, comparable prototypes may help open the door to other partnering initiatives that will advance the quality of recovered glass, along with that of other packaging materials.
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.