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Costs make recycling glass bottles a tough sell

Post Time:Aug 05,2008Classify:Industry NewsView:399

What's a beer bottle worth after someone drinks the brew?

Not much. The market price for recycled glass is so low that it doesn't make financial sense for bars and restaurants to recycle the container for the world's favorite alcoholic beverage.

"I bartended for a couple years, and you're just throwing away glass bottles your entire shift. It's kind of a screwed-up system," said Taylor McKinley, who has studied the feasibility of a bar-glass recycling program in Columbus.

From using glass for sculptures to making recycling a requirement for recognition from the mayor's "green" team, Columbus businesses and officials are trying to get creative to keep glass from piling into landfills. They say it has been a long battle, and the end is nowhere in sight.

The U.S. recycles less than a third of glass beverage bottles, according to the latest information available from the Environmental Protection Agency. That means more than 10 million tons of glass clattered into landfills in 2006.

Rumpke Consolidated Cos., which collects recyclables in Columbus, expects to recycle 15.6 million pounds of glass this year at its facility in Dayton. But it's not a very profitable business, and only a few Columbus restaurants are contributing, spokesman Jonathan Kissell said.

Clear glass is worth $25 a ton to recyclers, and brown glass is worth $15 a ton, Kissell said. That's less than it costs to carry it to the buyer, a fiberglass-insulation manufacturer. Then there's green glass, worth a whopping nothing.

Could the value of glass go any lower? The slump in the housing market has proved that it can. Fewer new houses mean lowered demand for fiberglass insulation.

Aluminum cans, meanwhile, fetch $1,400 a ton.

McKinley, who conducted his study as a graduate student at Ohio State University, said Columbus needs financial incentives if it wants to cut back on glass in trash.

Some U.S. cities require beverage retailers to pick up the costs, or they charge businesses that trash glass.

In January, North Carolina became the first state to mandate that businesses with liquor licenses recycle glass.

Columbus officials, trash collectors and businesses have been having "bottle summits" for years but don't have any concrete plans yet, said Susan Ashbrook, Mayor Michael B. Coleman's "green czar."

However, the mayor's office has included glass recycling as one of the requirements for receiving the city's GreenSpot certification. GreenSpot was launched last week as a status symbol that businesses can apply for if they meet a set of environmental standards.

Columbus Green Drinks, a social club for environmentalists, plans to start a recycling program this fall with 12 bars displaying recycling bins. It's searching for local artistic and architectural uses for the glass.

To help start the effort, the Columbus Food & Wine Affair will recycle an estimated 3,400 bottles, said Elizabeth Lessner, president of the Central Ohio Restaurant Association.

Lessner said her own bars try to push draft beer. Serving fewer bottles makes the glass easier to cart off to a recycling bin, she said.

"Businesses generally want to do the right thing. It's just learning to do it and figuring out how to afford it."

The U.S. recycles less than a third of glass beverage bottles.

Source: THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Author: admin

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