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Recycling glass does not make any sense

Pressed by the public to resume accepting glass at the Slack Street recycling center, West Virginia Recycling Service has done so. People are enthusiastically bringing in what center manager George Hunyadi called "a boatload" of glass.

Unfortunately, the exercise makes no environmental or economic sense.

Recycling glass is an exercise in futility, according to Rich Trzupek, a chemist and a consultant on the environment for Fortune 500 companies. He has written commentaries for the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business and Reuters.

First, putting glass in a landfill poses no threat to the environment.

"Depending on the source, the decomposition rate for glass is variously quoted as thousands to millions of years," Trzupek wrote.

"The first question that leaps to mind is a basic one: Who cares? Undecomposed glass does not, can not, harm the environment or endanger human health by any possible stretch of the most vivid imagination."

Even when it does decompose, it breaks down to sand.  

Burning petroleum products to move glass around does more harm to the environment.

Second, recycling glass makes no economic sense.

"The big problems with glass recycling are that: a) the primary raw material (sand) used in glass production is plentiful and cheap, and b) the supply of recycled glass far exceeds demand," Trzupek wrote.

"Ground, recycled glass, called 'cullet' in the industry, is a mish-mash of diverse chemical components," he wrote.

"Accordingly, glass manufacturers can only use a small amount of cullet when producing their products. If they use too much cullet they run the risk of compromising the integrity of whatever they are manufacturing."

The Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority stopped recycling glass this spring because it was expensively handling heavy material for which there is little market.

"Last year alone we lost almost $48,000 from glass," Recycling Coordinator Donnie DeBerry told the State Journal.

In summary:

* Glass in a landfill doesn't hurt the environment.

* Trucking unwanted glass costs recycling centers precious resources and wastes petroleum.

Citizens should allow recycling centers to concentrate on other materials. Elected officials should allow recycling centers to stop accepting useless junk that belongs in a landfill.

 


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