Companies launch glass recycling

A Missoula recycling company will start accepting glass next week, but people must pay to have it hauled off until there’s a market for crushed glass.

Tom Ernst and Mike Oestreich hope to create one.

Ernst’s Missoula Valley Recycling and Oestreich’s company, Ozzie’s Oil, have teamed up to pick up, crush and reuse glass.

The Missoula area has long been without glass recycling because of the economics. Shipping collected glass to faraway mills costs more than the glass is worth.

A few years ago the city tried, unsuccessfully, to crush and reuse glass. Glass that eager recyclers dropped off eventually ended up in the landfill.

Ernst and Oestreich are taking a different approach, starting with the fee they plan to charge because there is no market for the crushed glass they’ll produce.

Ernst, who provides curbside collection of aluminum cans, white paper, newsprint, cardboard and plastic, will do the pickups as part of his regular route.

Oestreich, who will do the crushing, has been experimenting with different screens on his crusher and with different colors and qualities of glass. Finely ground green glass decorates the planters in his office, and it works well along walkways and in gardens, he said.

“Pulverized glass is a cleaner product than sand, and just as safe,” Oestreich said. “You can put it in aquariums or build beaches out of it.”

As Ernst begins collecting glass, Oestreich will start courting would-be customers, because the glass eventually must turn a profit.

Ernst has been talking to state officials about using ground-up glass for highway projects.

“It’s hard to sell the product until we have it,” he said.

“If we can make it valuable enough, though, crushed glass can stand on its own as a commodity.”

600450 Companies launch glass recycling
Date: 3 February 2004

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