The Yukon’s recycling processors have announced that as of Nov. 30, they will no longer be accepting non-refundable glass.
Think pickle jars, bottles of jam, maple syrup and so on.
“We have to increase our operational efficiencies,” Raven Recycling’s executive director Joy Snyder said at a Nov. 6 press conference about the changes.
She was joined by P&M Recycling owner Pat McInroy and Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling’s general manager Taylor Tiefenbach as well as territorial government and city officials at the press conference.
“It’s a tough time in the industry,” McInroy concurred.
The recyclers outlined the issues with commodity prices being significantly low, noting the need to scale things back and see where efficiencies could be found while still maintaining recycling options for Yukoners.
They stressed refundable glass bottles will continue to be accepted and the deposit paid back to customers, but non-refundable glass will no longer be accepted.
Ideally, Snyder said, Yukoners will reuse their glass bottles. But if they are getting rid of them the best way to do that is to put them in with regular trash that will be taken to the landfill, she said.
Local recyclers have accepted glass for years, though it never made its way to any glass recycling facilities — the nearest one being in Calgary — due to the high cost of shipping the heavy material.
Rather, glass coming in to local recyclers has been crushed, with much of it making its way up to the city landfill to be used as cover. It had been hoped that a local market for crushed glass could be found, but that has been fairly limited.
McInroy said he has a couple of customers who use crushed glass for sandblasting and making countertops, but the amount of glass purchased is minimal. Some of the crushed glass at his depot is about five years old, he said.
“Quite frankly, there’s not a big market,” he said.
McInroy estimated that on average P&M crushes about five cubic yards of glass into one cubic yard per day with 10 per cent of that amount coming from non-refundable bottles and jars.
Refundable glass will continue to be crushed and used for cover or sold, with those costs being covered by the beverage container regulations that consumers pay when they purchase the beverage.
Looking at where efficiencies could be made, glass made the most sense.
As Geoff Quinsey, manager of water and waste for the City of Whitehorse, explained, glass remains inert in the landfill and can be easily crushed.
Quinsey said ideally the glass bottles and jars would be kept out of the landfill, but it’s important to recognize the work recyclers are doing to keep everything they can from the general landfill.
By increasing efficiencies for recyclers through the elimination of non-refundable glass, they can continue their work ensuring other materials are recycled and stay out of the landfill.
As John Streicker, the territory’s minister of community services, said in a statement: “It is unfortunate that we cannot find a viable solution for glass locally, but we understand the need to have a sustainable recycling industry in Yukon.”
Snyder said that there had been some informal chats with officials at Lumel Studios in the past about the possibility of the glass-blowing studio using the glass coming into the recycling facilities, but it was learned that the recycled glass wouldn’t be conducive to glass blowing.
Lumel glass-blower Ankeeta Patal explained in an interview following the announcement that Lumel uses soft glass at its facility and once glass is shattered for recycling, a component called flux, which allows the glass to be clear, smooth and easier to shape, is diminished.
That’s not to say recycled glass can’t be used for glass blowing, but it would require a separate furnace and there would be limitations on what could be made with the recycled glass.
A glass blower, for example, could make a functional vase, but would not be able to make a goblet with the recycled glass.
There are also issues with the colour.
“It can not guarantee a clear colour,” she said.
Patal did note the studio reuses remnants of glass left on the furnace pipe during the glass-blowing process.
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