It’s no secret: most glass winds up in landfill

Do you wonder where your imported beer bottles, pickle and pasta sauce jars end up once you put them in your recycling bin? Look no further than the Whitehorse landfill.

Do you wonder where your imported beer bottles, pickle and pasta sauce jars end up once you put them in your recycling bin?

Look no further than the Whitehorse landfill.

That’s a practice that has never changed, according to Danny Lewis, Raven Recycling’s education coordinator.

“We’ve never kept that a secret,” he said.

“Glass is one of the very few items that we feel comfortable allowing to go to the landfill.”

The issue surrounding glass’s final destination surfaced at a city council meeting a few weeks ago, when Mayor Dan Curtis commented it wasn’t worth putting glass containers in recycling bins because it all ends up in the landfill anyway.

This came as a surprise to some who believed our glass containers were shipped south to facilities where they would be washed and re-used.

Although a lot of glass does get reused – about 40 per cent, Lewis estimates – the majority does wind up in the landfill.

There are a few reasons for this.

When glass is collected at Raven it’s separated into multiple categories, one of which is refillable bottles, Lewis explains.

Some domestic beer bottles are sent south, where they are re-used, and some are sent to Yukon Brewing, which washes and re-uses them.

The territory’s beverage container regulations fund this process. Consumers pay a refundable deposit and a recycling fee on purchases of designated beverage containers. When they return the empty beverage containers to a recycling depot, they receive the refundable deposit.

The recycling fee goes to the Yukon government, which uses the funds to pay for handling, processing and transportation fees for the empty containers.

Other glass is separated into two categories: refillable wine bottles are washed and stored for customers to purchase, while everything else (imported beer bottles, liqueur bottles and jars, for example) is crushed into three different sizes.

Raven uses an Andela Glass Pulverizer machine, which grinds glass into pebble and sand size.

That’s used for landscaping and gardening, Lewis said. A local company even uses it in its concrete table tops and counters.

The sand can be used for sandbagging or spread on roads near the landfill, Lewis said.

The bigger chunks of glass – 50 to 60 per cent of all glass Raven collects – is sent to the landfill, where it is mostly used as clean fill to weigh garbage down and prevent it from flying away.

Shipping glass south would be too costly, Lewis said, and can’t be justified considering the small volume Raven gets.

Lewis said people often ask him why they should bother rinsing out jars and bottles, if it’s going to end up in the landfill anyway.

“We appreciate when people do that because when it comes to putting it through the machinery to crush it, you can imagine if it’s covered in peanut butter or jam,” he said.

The City wants to implement its own curbside recycling program and charge ratepayers about $15 a month, which would cover the cost of collecting and processing recyclables.

But some criticism was levelled at the City when it was revealed that Styrofoam and glass wouldn’t be collected as part of the service.

Lewis said very few Canadian jurisdictions collect glass as part of their curbside recycling programs.

That’s because there are safety issues for blue bin staff.

“Glass gets broken in bins and it’s especially dangerous when it has to be hand-sorted on a conveyer belt,” he said.

“Once the bottles are broken you can’t get a refund for them.”

Glass is also extremely tough on Raven’s machinery, he added.

The Andela machine requires upwards of $10,000 per year in maintenance.

“It’s an uncommon thing for glass to be acceptable in a blue bin system and I believe that’s where the mayor was going when he made those comments,” Lewis said.

“We encourage people to bring their glass to the recycling centre because we’ll crush it and it gets used more effectively that way,” he said.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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