Glass recycling needs greater care
By: Dave Whitfield
| Posted: Thursday, Nov 01, 2012 06:00 am
While it’s true Bow Valley residents have embraced recycling and the notion of living in greener communities, there is still work to be done when it comes to proper sorting of materials.
In the past, much of the glass recycled in the Valley was going to Lafarge to use in its products, which kept it out of landfills, but in more recent months, due to contaminants, the cement giant was forced to stop accepting glass.
Since July, all that glass has been stockpiled at the Francis Cooke III landfill in the MD of Bighorn. Right now, said Bow Valley Waste Management’s (BVWM) Peter Duck, an investigation is under way to find equipment that could remove contaminants from the glass stream.
“We might be able to run it through a screener to ensure it’s a good enough product for Lafarge to use it again. There are magnets that can pull metal out, or air screeners to blow plastic out of the glass. Metal is the real sensitive contaminant. Lafarge can’t have that in its products. It’s definitely a no-go.
“We’re going to have to stockpile the glass until we have the right equipment. This (finding uses for glass) is a problem municipalities all over Alberta have. We’re a self-sustainable operation, so we’ll cover our costs, we just don’t know what they’ll be at this time.”
In the Bow Valley, according to BVWM, recycling programs have collected about 200 tonnes of glass per year. But, after Lafarge stopped accepting the glass, a study was done and it was found that recycled glass bins contained plastic, metal lids, hazardous light bulbs and ceramic foodware.
Another problem, said Duck, is that a lot of refundable glass, as much as $12,000 worth or 25 per cent, is being put in recycling bins, instead of being taken to bottle depots in Banff or Canmore. “There are non-profit organizations that could use that money if people donated it,” he said. “And, if refundable bottles were taken to the depots, that would also reduce the amount of glass we have to process at the Francis Cooke.”
BVWM is now working with Lafarge to implement a plan that will allow them to take the recycled glass once again, including the purchase of sorting equipment. As well, the group asks residents to be more diligent in keeping contaminants out of the glass bins.
Other used are always being investigated for recycled glass, said Duck, including by the City of Calgary, “which is doing research into putting glass into road materials. Not for the top layer, of course, but into a base layer where it could replace other aggregates.”
Established used for recycled glass include road marking paint, fibreglass manufacturing and sand blasting products.
Overall, according to BVWM, 38 per cent of the material in glass recycling bins should not be there. Much more careful sorting by residents will help make the product more useful once again.