Glass recycling pilot advances in Pennsylvania
Glass Recycling Foundation

Glass recycling pilot advances in Pennsylvania

Public-private partnerships helped to start a drop-off pilot program for glass recycling in Erie County, Pennsylvania, after the county stopped collecting glass in its single-stream recycling program in 2018.

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February 22, 2021

Prism Recycling, Erie, Pennsylvania, has developed a drop-off pilot program for glass recycling in Erie County, Pennsylvania, through a public-private partnership between the Erie County Recycling program, the Erie Area Council of Governments, CAP Glass Recycling and the Glass Recycling Foundation.

The Glass Recycling Foundation, Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a nonprofit that was established to help support pilot projects to overcome barriers to glass recycling. “We are pleased to provide our first grant award to support this collaborative effort in Erie County,” says Scott DeFife, president of the Glass Recycling Foundation. “There are strong end-markets for good quality glass in Pennsylvania and programs like this are needed to get that material back into the circular economy and glass supply chain.”

In late 2018, Erie County officials had announced that contracted haulers in the area were removing glass from single-stream recycling. Samuel P. “Pat” Black III, chairman of Erie Management Group, along with his daughter, Sumi James-Black, report that this announcement was “not acceptable” and wanted to do something to bring glass recycling back to the program. Black and James-Black invest in and manage companies to capitalize on economic opportunities in the region.

“We knew this was a larger problem than in just the Erie region, and one that would require a coordinated approach to allow the solution to reach the farthest distance,” Black says.

In late 2019, Black found a potential opportunity to partner with a local startup business attempting to solve the area’s problem with glass recycling. After some research and collaboration, Black says Prism Glass Recycling launched in September 2020 through public-private partnerships in the area.

According to a news release from the Glass Recycling Foundation, Prism first worked to establish a public-private partnership pilot project involving local government and the glass recycling and container manufacturing industries. Through a series of discussions with partner organizations, the Glass Recycling Municipal Drop-Off Pilot Project Public-Private Partnership for Erie County started. The Glass Recycling Foundation reports that the pilot project “aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of public- and private-sector collaboration to establish an efficient means to collect large volumes of glass, bringing it back into the regional glass recycling supply chain and support local and regional economic development serving as a model for other mid-size communities.”

Through the partnership, Prism provides overall project management and coordination as well as the majority of capital investment to develop the system and business model. Prism manages the glass recycler drop-off boxes that were custom fabricated by Switch-N-Go in Hadley, Pennsylvania. The Erie County government and the Glass Recycling Foundation also provided $10,000 each toward the purchase of these drop-off boxes to offset the total cost of $77,000.

The Erie County Recycling Program and the Erie Area Council of Governments—an 18-municipality membership association—provided promotional help for the pilot.

According to the Glass Recycling Foundation, residents in the county have been visiting these drop-off sites to deliver clean and empty glass bottles and jars.

“The way we were collecting glass in single-stream recycling made it nearly impossible to recycle due to breakage and contamination,” says Lynn Armel, Erie County sustainability coordinator. “Glass is an endlessly recyclable material, but it must be collected separately. We are really lucky to have a local business making that possible. Erie County Recycling is so pleased to be part of this innovative effort in glass recycling.”

According to the Glass Recycling Foundation, Prism monitors the drop-off box levels via Compology cameras, and when full, Prism has the materials hauled to the SB3 Industrial Park in Erie by a locally contracted hauler and aggregates materials into a large concrete bunker until there is enough volume to trigger a pickup by Cap Glass Recycling in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Cap is a regional glass processor that supplies furnace-ready cullet to the O-I and Ardagh Group glass container manufacturing plants in Brockway and Port Allegany, Pennsylvania, respectively.

Cap is providing technical assistance, physical infrastructure and trucking services as part of the pilot project, as well.

Prism Recycling says it aims to grow the amount of glass collected and expand the drop-off program regionally as it develops residential curbside and commercial glass-only collection services for implementation later this year.