Recycled glass sits while the city waits

A pile of glass bottles and jars ­ brown, green and clear all mingled together in broken pieces ­ sits in a bin behind a Sugar Creek warehouse waiting to be reborn.

Dutifully saved and sorted along with the newspapers, plastic jugs, tin and aluminum cans, the glass was destined for recycling but could end up in the dump.Sugar Creek Public Works Director Ed Layton said recycling centers around the city refuse to accept the glass.The city is stockpiling the material for the time being.

"We don't want to get people away from the idea of recycling glass," Layton said. "If we can't find some solution, though, it will probably end up in the landfill."

The glass half fills a 40-square-foot bin behind the public works building. Layton estimated the container is holding about three tons of glass or six months worth of collection. About half of Sugar Creek residents use the city's curbside recycling program.

Recycling was introduced in the city more than 10 years ago and reduced the city's solid waste volume, Layton said. Ini tially, the materials brought in enough revenue to support collection.

"It seems the bottom has just gone out of the glass market. We don't know why," Layton said.

Newspapers also dropped in value from about $25 a ton a few years ago to $5 a ton today, Layton said. Tin and aluminum still fetch a good price. Alum i num is the most valuable at about 35 cents a pound.

Sugar Creek is applying for a grant to purchase a glass crushing machine, which would render it usable as fill material, street cover for snow, even as a mix with asphalt. The machine costs about $30,000.

Other cities have encountered the same problem. Liberty asked its residents to stop including glass with curb-side recycling in June. The city is still taking glass at its central recycling collection center until the end of the year, when it will likely discontinue.

Deffenbaugh, which operates the largest recycling center in the metro area, has recently changed its machinery to a "single-stream processor" that does not accept glass.

Mike Clagett, a supervisor with the Deffenbaugh recycling division, said the change will only affect the company's curbside service programs.

"We are still accepting pre-sorted glass from collection sites in a number of cities" including Independence, Clagett said. "As long as it is already sorted by color, we can take it."

Independence operates collection sites at Liberty and Walnut Avenue and Lee's Summit Road, just south of Interstate 70. The two centers bring in about 15 tons of glass each month.

Sugar Creek's glass is not sorted by color.

Clagett said the process of sorting glass was too labor intensive and too dangerous to make it profitable for the company. Already, the glass product is only marginally profitable. The company has to ship the glass to Oklahoma to find buyers.

The Mid-America Regional Council operates the solid waste management district for the Kansas City area. That agency is focusing on developing local demand for recycled glass product.

"Until there is more of a local market, the curbside collection of glass is not economically feasible," said Lisa Danbury of MARC.

600450 Recycled glass sits while the city waits
Date: 21 July 2003

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