Although some of the glass has been crushed to use for roadbed, the pile has gone largely untouched.
But today, the Spokane City Council will consider a contract with eCullet, a California glass recycling company that has a plant in Seattle.
The company will cover hauling costs and will give the city $5 a ton for glass that’s not sorted by color. That’s most of the glass at the Colbert site. That price may not seem like much, but the city estimates that it has more than 10,000 tons on site. The contract also would pay the city $10 a ton for glass sorted by color, which includes all glass collected from waste transfer stations.
Not only will the city finally get revenue from the pile, the end use of the bottles – recycling them back into bottles – may be a better environmental outcome. Recycling experts say making glass bottles out of old bottles uses significantly less energy and creates less carbon dioxide than using raw materials, even when the energy used to transport the bottles is considered.
“It financially makes sense and it will be reused in a way that’s consistent with our values and our regulations,” said Geoff Glenn, operations superintendent for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System.
When Spokane began stockpiling glass in 2008, the city had been losing money on glass recycling because of high transportation costs and low commodity prices.
ECullet recently expanded its operations. But so many other communities have ended or reduced glass recycling, eCullet is willing to buy Spokane’s glass, said Scott Windsor, Spokane’s solid waste director.
Since 2008, the city has experimented with other uses of glass, including crushing the glass into garden mulch. Windsor said some local landscaping companies have expressed interest in making mulch, but they haven’t been willing to pay for the city’s glass. Last summer, the city paid a company $40,000 to break up 3,000 tons for use in roadbeds.
The contract with eCullet allows the city to keep glass for other uses. However, with eCullet currently the only willing buyer, almost all of it likely will be taken by eCullet, except the amount already broken up for use in roads, Windsor said.
Spokane will switch to a new curbside recycling collection system in the fall. After commodities are collected at the curb, they will be sorted by Waste Management at its new West Plains recycling plant. The company will decide if it will continue to sell glass collected curbside to eCullet. Glass collected at transfer stations likely will continue to be taken by eCullet.
Glenn said if the City Council approves the contract on Tuesday, he expects the main bottle pile in Colbert – 15 to 20 feet high and likely bigger than a football field – to be gone within the next few months.