RECYCLING GLASS IN MONTANA

 

Click on the bottle image to view Montana's Glass Recycling Timeline.

Glass recycling is hardly a new idea. In this country, glass has been recycled into new products since colonial times. This activity has taken on considerable momentum in recent years. Glass recycling has grown more rapidly than that of any other commodity except aluminum beverage containers. Montana is still trying to establish infrastructure for recycling in general. Glass is only a small part of a larger problem that Montana faces in regard to recycling. Currently glass has a small and limited market, especially in Montana.

Glass is 100 percent recyclable but brings many challenges to Montana because of our low population. This works against us in that we do not generate "enough" glass to lure glass bottling plants to Montana and we do not produce enough consumer glass to be an effective source for a full scale recycling program. The challenge of not having bottling plants close to Montana requires shipping glass out of state. The transportation costs to ship recyclables hundreds of miles for processing is often cost-prohibitive. These two factors push glass into the aggregate market as a low value commodity. The equipment used to process the glass is very expensive and many businesses cannot produce enough glass cullet (recycled container class) to pay for the expense of operation.

Glass Facts

  • Glass constituted 5.5 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream by weight and 1.5 percent by volume. An estimated generation of glass for Montana in 2007 was 47,893 tons.
  • Glass is heavy and weighs 2,800 lbs per yard.
  • All glass food and beverage containers can be recycled.
  • Recycling a glass jar saves enough energy to light 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours or power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • Recycling glass instead of making it from silica sand reduces mining waste by 70 percent, water use by 50 percent, and air pollution by 20 percent.
  • For every 96 tons of recycled container glass used, one ton of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is reduced.

Markets and Manufacturers

Container glass is the highest and best use for glass cullet. Other consuming markets include filtration, sand blasting, fiberglass and decorative items.

Container manufacturers need clean glass cullet and are interested in using more in their manufacturing processes. Some of the manufacturers are finding it hard to receive quality clean cullet because of single stream recycling.

The U.S. is home to 50 glass factories in 23 states.

Market Challenges for Wyoming Glass Recycling

Health Facts

  • Glass is pH neutral
  • No known problems associated with incompatibility with other chemicals
  • No known acute or chronic effects from overexposure to glass cullet
  • Glass does not cause silicosis

It is important to recycle glass along with other recyclables. However creating a recycling program offers many challenges. In order to achieve a successful long-term recycling program, Montana needs to: create a strong infrastructure, establish efficient, affordable and convenient collection systems, and to develop "markets" for recyclables.

Even with these overwhelming challenges, the staff at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) works hard to increase recycling opportunities, to develop markets for the recyclables collected here, and to increase public awareness of current recycling opportunities.

Annual Savings & Greenhouse Gas Impacts from Recycling

Recycled Savings per Consumed Product
Recovered Glass
(Tons)

BTUs
(Millions)

Oil
(Barrels)
Greenhouse Gases
(Tons)

Trees
(Count)

Electricity
(KWh)

Water
(Gallons)

Landfill Diversion
3,000 10,799 1,982 320 51,000 12,300,000 21,000,000 111,000
10,000 35,996 6,605 1,066 170,000 41,000,000 70,000,000 370,000