Greensboro, North Carolina, will no longer accept glass among other recyclable items through its residential curbside recycling program. The change comes as municipalities across the country are deciding to cut certain recyclable commodities from residential programs to offset rising recycling and processing costs.
Polyethylene cartons, including milk and juice jugs, large plastic items, including buckets, pots and pans and shredded paper will also no longer be accepted in the residential recycling program. The city says it will also close 20 recycling drop-off centers due to an increase of contamination at the sites, as well as new contamination fees imposed by Phoenix, Arizona-based Republic Services, which processes the city's waste and recyclables.
Greensboro says changes to the residential recycling program are due to low demand and low commodity prices in the United States.
“Some communities have seen significant changes to recycling, including stopping recycling all together,” the city says on its website. “To keep Greensboro recycling, we need to make changes to our residential program.”
In the past, Greensboro says it received a share of the revenue from the sale of recyclables; however, now the city must pay Republic Services $30 a ton to haul and process paper, plastic, metal and glass. The fee will rise to $90 per ton by 2022, according to an online report by News & Record.
Glass recycling represents a large cost to the city. The city says glass accounts for 25 percent of the weight of recyclable materials. Glass also contributes to contamination in the recycling stream.
“It costs our recycling contractor $22 a ton, and that does not include the cost to sort it from other recyclables and ship it to the next plant,” the city says. “In order to be better stewards of our tax dollars, we chose to remove glass from our recycling stream. The lighter our recycling stream, the lower the cost to recycle.”
Establishing a separate glass recycling program would solve contamination issues, as well as address residents’ requests for glass recycling, but it would also cost the city in hauling, processing and shipping, as well as the costs to educate the public on the new glass recycling program. Residents, nonprofits and trade organizations have expressed concern over municipalities cutting certain recyclables, including glass, from curbside programs without exploring other options and solutions first.
Residents in Greensboro are being directed to place glass in the waste stream while the city works to "identify drop-off locations for glass recycling." The glass drop-off locations won't be open until after July, the city says. The glass taken to the drop-offs will be sent for recycling in Wilson, North Carolina, where bottles are recycled and reused in the brewing industry, according to the News & Record report.
To educate residents of the changes, the city created Reset. Recycle. tags, which instruct residents to place glass, plastic bags and cartons in the trash. The city also explains glass is no longer accepted “due to local and global recycling changes” on the tag.